A new report by the West Virginia University School of Public Health concluded that laws passed across the country to punish those texting behind the wheel have likely had little effect and have not done much to reduce the number of car wreck injuries caused by distracted driving.
The study, “Keeping an Eye on Distracted Driving,” appears in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors of the study found that in 2003, cell phone use behind the wheel likely caused more than 300,000 total injuries and 2,600 fatalities. Between 2005 and 2009, as new legislation was passed across the country, these numbers increased by 22 percent. The study found that despite increased legislation meant to force drivers to put down their phones, the problem is likely to worsen over the coming years.
The study authors believe young drivers are the greatest risk because they are generally heavier cell phone users than older drivers. Younger drivers are doubly dangerous because they also lack the driving experience needed to know how to respond to dangerous driving events. Young drivers have grown up around phones and most do not believe using them while driving is necessarily dangerous given their familiarity with the electronic devices. The study found that many believe practice makes perfect.
Researchers say eventually the numbers might level off, but only if state legislatures use the same efforts that have been employed to discourage drunk driving. So far, 29 states have banned text messaging by drivers while only 10 have gone so far as to outlaw talking while using a handheld device. Here in Mississippi, text messaging is prohibited for those drivers with an intermediate license, a temporary learning permit or a temporary driving permit. Violating this law can result in fines of up to $500 and up to $1,000 in the event of an accident.
Researchers said that it likely would not be legislative action that stems the rising tide of cell phone-related deaths, but instead technology. They hope that automakers will eventually develop technology in cars that automatically disable all handheld phone use and possibly even convert both incoming and outgoing text messages to voice to allow for hands-free usage. To encourage this technological development, the study’s authors said the federal government should take action to push automakers to develop the new technology. Such action would help reduce the thousands of deaths that occur each year due to entirely preventable distracted driving.
If you or some you know has been injured, you need the help of a Mississippi injury attorney knowledgeable of the state’s confusing personal injury law to help protect your rights and recover damages for your injury.
Source: “Texting While Driving Injuries to Rise Despite Bans, Warnings: Study,” published at InsuranceJournal.com.