Is stopping distracted driving an impossibility?

In a previous post about texting and driving, we shared how driving laws had changed in Pennsylvania. In March, a new law was enacted that made texting and emailing while driving a primary offense. That means that someone could be pulled over and fined for simply being caught tapping on their cellphone screen. No other traffic violation had to have occurred.

With the addition of that law in Pennsylvania and similar strict distracted driving laws throughout other parts of the U.S., it is still troubling to see how many drivers continue to engage in texting behind the wheel. A recent Philadelphia Inquirer post discusses how it might officially get into people’s minds that distracted driving is dangerous and illegal.

What will it take to get people to put their phones down and drive? Is it laws? Laws tend to alter behavior over time. But even with longstanding laws against drunk driving, drivers still drive drunk all too often and cause fatal accidents. Distracted driving laws will likely help prevent accidents, but it might take some more time for the nation to see a significant change among its drivers.

It also seems that not even knowledge is power to change distracted driving habits. A recent safety survey revealed that while college-age drivers understand the risk of texting while driving, the vast majority of them still engage in the potentially deadly behavior.

What’s the answer to the distracted driving problem? Is stopping texting behind the wheel a hopeless cause?

No law, fine or level of knowledge will ever completely rid the streets of distracted drivers, just as such efforts have not gotten rid of all drunk driving. But time, a continued focus on the dangers of distracted driving and the consistent evaluation as well as tailoring of texting laws will hopefully make for a safer future on the roads.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Texting while driving is illegal and unsafe. Why is it the norm?” July 19, 2012

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