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U.S. Laws on the use of Cellular Phone while Driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council (NSC), 2015 may has been the deadliest driving year for Americans since 2008 due to the rise in motor vehicle deaths. About 38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads, while 4.4 million were seriously injured (road fatality in 2014 was 32,675).

This dramatic increase in the number of cars on the road is attributed to gas prices going down. With more cars on the road, incidences of alcohol-impaired driving, speeding, people failing to buckle up, and instances of distracted driving also increased.

Distracted driving refers to any form of activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the primary task of driving. The introduction of cell phones and now, the expansion of smartphone functions and wider use of social media platforms, have further worsened distractions behind the wheel. Though these are clear threats to road safety, these, nonetheless make cell phone use appear more fun and exciting. Many drivers today, especially teens and young adult drivers, not only read, send and/or reply to texts while driving; they now also send emails, snap selfies, conduct video chats, shoot videos, and use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat; some even watch YouTube videos while driving, practically believing that they can drive and do anything else safely.

Below is the cellular phone use and texting while driving laws in the U.S. (from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) (http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/cellular-phone-use-and-texting-while-driving-laws.aspx):

Hand-held Cell Phone Use Ban: 14 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.

  • All Cell Phone ban: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice or teen drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit any cell phone use for school bus drivers.
  • Text Messaging ban: 46 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.

Despite the bans on texting and cellphone use while driving, so many drivers refuse to be dissuaded from texting and using their cell phone while behind the wheel. A distraction while driving at fast speed, even a momentary one, may cause a driver to:

  • Drift out of the proper lane and into the path of an oncoming car traveling in the opposite direction
  • Fail to signal lane changes or turns
  • Change lanes without checking blind spots
  • Turn the wrong way onto a one way street
  • Enter a highway ramp in the wrong direction
  • Disregard a traffic signal
  • Fail to notice a bicyclist or pedestrian on or near the road

Deaths and injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes are simply unacceptable. Most car accidents are preventable with responsible, diligent, and focused driving. By doing away with reckless, dangerous, and negligent driving behaviors, lives can be saved and injuries prevented. One way to accomplish this is by holding irresponsible drivers accountable for their actions and making them compensate those that they hurt in a car accident.

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