Leading Cause of Death Among Teens in America? Traffic Accidents.
American safety experts are struggling with a two-horned beast, each horn representing a different (but related) problem.
- The first horn is that teens are far more likely to text-and-drive than other drivers.
- The second horn is that teens are far more likely to die in vehicle accidents than other drivers.
What connects those horns is a culture where everyone is afraid that drivers are taking their eyes off the road...but also admit to taking their eyes off the road because they're the "exception" to the rule.
Statistically, however, there is no exception. Experts believe that 58% of collisions in the U.S. can be attributed to distracted driving—and 1 in 4 car accidents are caused by texting while driving specifically. People are being injured at an alarming rate as all of us turn our phone into an extension of our brains, our hands, and our careers. As the most likely population to text and drive, teens put themselves at the most risk.
Regulations Are Already In Place
The law is on the side of safety, at least. This isn't an issue of what's legal vs. illegal.
Federal employees have been banned from using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving government-owned vehicles since 2009. Outside contractors and businesses who interact with federal employees are also urged to adopt their own policies to ban texting while driving.
Commercial drivers, such as truck drivers and bus drivers, have had regulation in place since 2010 which makes it illegal to use any electronic devices while driving a motor vehicle of any type. Similar rules are enforced by other industries such as hazardous waste carriers, commercial rail carriers and commercial aircraft.
Obviously, the law is already in favor of banning smartphone use while operating a vehicle. Very few drivers (even the ones who text) would object to banning texting and driving across the board. The law isn't the issue—the issue is what we accept as a culture. If the leading cause of death for teens in America is vehicle accidents, and if young drivers are more apt to be distracted while driving, how do we counter the trends? How do you fight an entire society's behavior?
Public Awareness Campaigns Also in Place
Any solution to a multi-faceted problem should address multiple issues. The first issue to address is awareness. People need to know there's a problem in order to fix it.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has run numerous public awareness campaigns since 2009, aimed at mitigating accidents related to distracted driving. “Stop the texts, stop the wrecks”, “Enjoy the Ride, Don’t Text and Drive”, and even “Only Bad Guys Drive Distracted” are just a few of the campaign slogans adopted by the myriad of safety partners of the DOT. From car manufacturers to movie characters, the message is clear: distracted driving is a problem.
To that end, Distraction.gov was created as a resource for parents and educators to address the problem with their children and students. The site includes statistics, presentation materials, and documents created to help address distracted driving behavior.
Simple Steps to Avoid Distracted Driving
Lecturing youths about texting won't work. Frankly, the best solution could mean learning habits that naturally lead to focused driving. For example, the notion of having a "designated driver" is one way MADD addressed drunk driving. Rather than admonishing youths to avoid drinking, they created a habit that would ensure their safety. It was pragmatic, realistic, and (combined with strict law enforcement), it worked.
Texting-and-driving should take the same approach by providing practical and pragmatic solutions to keep teens off their phones. For example:
- Give your phone to a passenger (or put it out of reach) when driving.
- Speak up when a driver starts using their phone.
- Whoever is riding shotgun gets to be the "DJ"—no more looking for songs while driving.
- As a passenger, offer to be the "designated texter"—send messages or read them to the driver instead of allowing them to do it.
The Legal Solution: Call a Lawyer
These are cultural solutions, but they only work when the courts put their weight behind them. Designated drivers wouldn't be a solution for drunk driving unless people were afraid of getting caught. Texting will be the same—there's no incentive to be better drivers unless teens face the legal consequences of their action.
Unfortunately, law enforcement hasn't quite figured out how to prove that a driver was texting and driving by the time they get pulled over. Proving that someone is drunk is scientific—proving that someone was texting is entirely based on witness testimony. In addition, texting-and-driving is a minor fine at most in many states. Criminalizing such a common behavior, while possible, isn't on the agenda for lawmakers.
However, that's only true for criminal courts. Civil courts, where injury cases are tried, have a lower standard of evidence. For the tide to turn against distracted driving, we have to commit ourselves to hold it accountable when distraction causes serious injury to ourselves and our loved ones.
Contact Our Pennslyvania Car Accident Lawyers
Were you injured by a driver who carelessly took their eyes off the road? Was your loved one hurt because another driver refused to put down their phone? Your story deserves to be heard—and your injury deserves financial recompense.
Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC has been serving the people of Pennsylvania since 1922. We have 5 office locations to serve anyone injured in an accident in Lancaster, Hanover, York, Carlisle, and of course, Harrisburg.
People call us to get free consultations on their case, where we hear what happened to them, tell them if they have a case or not, and give them some of the answers they've been looking for. Call (888) 498-3023 today to schedule your free consultation. There is no obligation to hire Handler, Henning & Rosenberg, but realize that which lawyer you hire makes a difference—put our experience to work for you and get the compensation you deserve.