Current statistics estimate that five in every seven people in the world own a cell phone. Additionally, it is estimated that in the United States alone, there are 660,000 people using a cell phone at any one time, through texting, calling, emailing, plus many other useful things available in today’s mobile phones. This use of cell phones is considered as requiring one’s heightened concentration, which makes multi-tasking difficult since the mind, is in most instances fixed to cell phone use. Therefore, it is inadvisable for a person to perform another equally mentally involving task such as driving while using a cell phone (Samuel, Pollatsek, and Fisher, 2011). This will be the focus of the report where the effect of texting while driving is analyzed using statistics, causalities, possible solutions, and factors influencing the promotion of this habit.
In the execution of this research, both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies were used for data collection. Unstructured interviews was one of the primary research used where sample groups of people were interviewed to derive their views on the issue of driving while texting. The sample group was chosen without regard for age, gender, race, income levels, educational, or any other demographical order to ensure that the results were credible and unbiased. The internet was also instrumental in the provision and acquisition of research materials such as eBooks, magazines, peer-reviewed articles, audio, and video recordings, among others. These were instrumental in the analysis of the scope of research that was available regarding texting while driving.
They contained rich sources of information that included interviews, sample groups, and Meta-analysis of different studies on how texting influences the behavior of drivers, possible solutions, and factors promoting the habit. Another primary research tool was government websites and credible organizations that had statistics on texting while driving which offered a rich resource in understanding the extent and scope of this behavior on the average citizens and how the relevant authorities are dealing with it. The meticulous data analysis ensured that all the information was perused comprehended, and its use and viability analyzed. This ensured that the data collected was easy to comply with into a highly rich, credible, and accurate research report that ensured that the research objective and hypothesis were adequately catered to.
Scope of the Research
The study on texting is still a virgin field of research due to the limited number of research directly linked to this topic. Consequently, also a minimal number of researches directly link texting and driving. The available research mainly deals with distracted driving which is a wide field that encompasses the many factors that can cause a driver to lose concentration while driving. Additionally, a subset of research on distracted driving deals with cell phone use while driving and focuses on both handheld and wireless use of the cell phone (Beirness, Simpson, and Pak, 2002). The focus of research will be on handheld mobile use but will neglect the data on voice and mobile application use while driving. Correlations will be made between using handheld devices and the driver’s ability to react accordingly to the facets of road safety and instructions. The focus will also be directed towards research into possible solutions to averting this menace, as well as statistics indicating how texting while driving affects society.
The number of texts and emails being sent on a daily basis is on the rise from the previous 9.8 billion in December of 2005, to a whopping 110.4 billion in December of 2008, and 173.1 billion in 2012. This figure is considered infinitely higher currently owing to the increase in mobile use penetration and a large number of instant messaging services and mobile applications available to support texting. According to data from different government websites, it is estimated that 47% of adult drivers had admitted to texting while driving, while a whopping 71% of teen drivers had admitted to texting while driving (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2011). In 2011, it is estimated that at least 23% of all fatal crashes were attributed to texting while driving, which is representative of 1.3 million crashes. Additionally, 13% of drivers aged between 18 and 20 that had been involved in car accidents admitted to having been distracted with cell phone use either texting or calling (Beirness, Simpson, and Pak, 2002).
According to the AT&T teen driver survey, a study conducted revealed that 97% of teens aged between the ages of 15 and 19 admitted to knowing the effects of texting while driving, but 43% of them engaged in the act regardless (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). In effect, 11 teens are killed on a daily basis due to distracted driving attributed to texting. The national safety council contends that texting causes 1.6 million accidents annually, 330,000 injuries per year, and 25% of all accidents in the US. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 43 states in the US have banned texting while driving and 94% of all drivers support this ban (2011). This body also revealed that distraction-affected crashes declined from 3,360 in 2011, to 3,328 in 2012. There was an increase in people injured in motor vehicle accidents attributed to distracted driving between the same periods from 387,000 to 421,000 (Tromblay,2010).
Approximately 40% of drivers, especially teens, believe that they can easily drive while texting without causing any form of accident. However, according to researchers, they postulate that a driver experiences three forms of brain distractions when they text while driving. These are manual, cognitive, and visual. Manual distraction involves the lack of operation of the necessary car controls since once hands are busy texting. Visual distraction involves diversion of the eyesight from the road to the phone, and cognitive distraction involves diversion mental concentration from driving to texting. These three primary distractions while driving constitute a highly polished and well-researched field that shows that one’s ability to perform normal functions while driving is impaired due to cognitive overload of the brain. Therefore, it discredits the myriads of beliefs that most drivers have that they are able to easily drive and text without veering off the road.
Studies indicate that when one is driving and texting, the brain’s sectors are used for visual and navigation senses, the brain is forced to allocate close to 60% of its activity to the secondary task of texting (Yager, 2013). This means that in spite of one’s ability to multi-task and performs both tasks of driving and texting; their ability to process information is infinitely reduced hence causing the distraction. For instance, a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that when a driver texts and drives simultaneously, their attention off the road is diverted by an average of 4.6 seconds (Braitman and McCartt, 2010). This lapse in time can be calculated by estimating that the driver was at a speed of 55 miles per hour, and the distance covered during this period is equivalent to driving across the entire length of the football field while blindfolded. This distance may seem minimal, but its danger lies in the fact that this football field is actually a road full of cars, pedestrians, or animals hence increasing the risks.
Therefore, this analogy is representative of numerous other studies that have indicated that texting while driving results in a person increasing their chances of being involved in an accident by 23 times. Additionally, this texting results in a person increasing their time focused on the road by 400%. The reactionary time for the individual driving while texting is also infinitely reduced as revealed by a study that showed that one ability to brake while texting is reduced by 18% (Braitman and McCartt, 2010). This figure means that those precious seconds before the occurrence of the accident could be the deciding factor between life and death or injury.
Solutions to Managing the Effects of Dangers of Texting While Driving
The increase in cases of fatal crashes attributed to texting while especially among teens has resulted in an increase in the education of this population. There are currently many programs or short seminars where professional teams go-to education centers such as high schools and colleges to educate the students on the fatalities and dangers of texting while driving (Olsen, Shults, and Eaton, 2013). This education is usually complete with graphic images and stories of survivors, which is meant to induce long-lasting perceptions in the students that texting while driving is dangerous to their life, their passengers, and other road users.
Among adults, there are massive funds that have been set aside to educate them on the dangers of texting while driving through the erection of billboards informing drivers of this danger. Additionally, the national safety council has been engaged in massive campaigns through roadshows and print, video, and audio advertisements that sensitize the public of this issue. Celebrities such as Oprah and Justin Bieber have been used as ambassadors to champion this agenda by using their fame to pass the message to their fans. The movie industry has also taken an upfront action through the movie by actor, Will Smith. In the movie, Will acts like a man who ends up killing seven people through an accident that occurred while driving while texting (Caird, Willness, Steel and Scialfa, 2003). As a means to revive his conscience, he contemplates suicide and donating his organs to seven people, to stand for the seven he ended up killing through the accident.
Several apps can be used to aid in the control and monitoring of texting while driving. One such technology uses telematics to link the phone and monitor the speed of the vehicle (Vermette, 2010). The technology uses an insurance-based charge that increases one’s premium if found driving at high speeds while texting. Other apps such as AT &T DriveMode have a technology to send a reply automatically to incoming messages when the car exceeds 25 miles per hour (Olsen, Shults and Eaton, 2013). DriveScribe, an android-based app, acts by blocking all calls and texts if the user is driving, while DriveSafe acts by reading one’s messages verbally and allows the user to reply verbally (Yager, 2013). Another technology that can be adopted is the use of HUD displays that display the texts on the windscreen to ensure that the driver’s eyesight is not diverted from the road.
One of the most widely accepted and implemented forms of legal solution to the use of cell phones is through banning this behavior. Under this law, 43 states have adopted it and acted by punishing drivers found guilty of violation by driving while texting (Caird, Willness, Steel and Scialfa, 2003). The punishments could include suspension of the driver’s license, payment of hefty fines, and in extreme cases jail terms, especially for repeat offenders. However, despite the stringent measures to control this menace, studies indicate that texting while driving accidents have increased by 9% since the bans took effect across different states (Centers for Disease Control, 2013). This ban on texting has also gained momentum with the UN proposing that member countries adopt this law to curb the rise in cases of accidents attributed to cell phone use. For instance, all UN employees are supposed to ensure that they adhere to a strict of no cell phone use while driving, or face dire actions as deemed best by their employers.
The rise in cases of road accidents attributed to cell phone use while driving has become a thorny issue for the criminal justice system, governments, and road safety institutions. It rise has been linked with the rise in penetration, use, and improvement of cell phone hardware and software. The research into this menace is limited and instead focused on cell phone usage in general, rather than specifically focusing on texting while driving (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2011). Distracted driving is the term used to collectively research and analyzes the effects, causalities, and solutions to texting while driving since cell phone usage has the same effects on a person on an almost equal level as calling, texting, playing games, surfing the internet, among many others.
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Caird, J. K., Willness, C. R., Steel, P. and Scialfa, C. (2008). A meta-analysis of the effects of cell phones on driver performance. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 40: 1282-1293.
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