Some national research studies have found that drivers who text and drive are 23 times as likely to be in a car accident. With studies like these and safety experts increasingly speaking out against distracted drivers, many legislators are taking note. Chuck Schumer, a Democratic Senator, introduced a bill which would require states to ban texting while driving in order to qualify for federal highway funds. Senator Jay Rockefeller has introduced a bill which would offer grants to states which did ban texting and driving.
Even President Barack Obama has aimed to reduce texting and driving. During a conference about distracted driving last fall, he signed an executive order which bans federal employees from texting while driving. While that takes care of some government employees, however, in many states, drivers can legally text and drive. This is despite the fact that research has shown that texting and driving can lead to serious car accidents and personal injuries.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has stated that texting and driving bans should apply not only to car drivers but also to bus drivers and truck drivers, who can cause serious bus accidents and trucking accidents by texting while driving. LaHood noted that for texting and driving bans for bus and truck drivers to be effective, they would need to work across state lines, since these drivers tend to drive across states often.
However, the government may need to face the fact that legislation alone might not work. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted a study which concluded that texting while driving and cell phone use actually slightly increased after these activities were banned among younger drivers. Although Phoenix banned texting and driving, a Reuters study in that city found that three out of four teens polled admitted to texting while driving. Clearly, any legislation will need to be followed up with enforcement and penalties. Most teens do not see texting while driving as something bad or wrong. Yet, many do see texting as a vital activity.
Legislators may need to ensure that penalties for texting while driving are high, in order to discourage drivers from texting while driving. Studies of teen habits also suggest that enforcement may be an issue. Unfortunately, many police agencies note that catching drivers who break such legislation is difficult. Most texters keep mobile devices on their laps or out of the way of windows, so that it is hard for officers to see texting on the roads. In addition to legislation, other types of initiatives may be important to stop texting and driving.