In Citra, Florida, 13 year old, Margay Schee was hit by a semi-truck traveling at 60 miles per hour1 . The truck driver claimed to have not seen Mrs.
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At the scene, her phone was found with a received text message at the time of the crash1. “Just in 2010, 3,092 people were killed in crashes [like the incidents above] involving a distracted driver…” Distracted driving has become the number one killer of Americans in the past few years, having alcohol related accidents drop to the number two slot. Though these two issues stack up differently, studies show that they are nearly the same thing. Studies done at the University of Utah show those drivers on mobile phones are actually more impaired than drivers at a . 8 Blood Alcohol Level. In New York in 1910, jurisdiction adopted laws against drunk driving and since then this issue has been heavily enforced. With this new form of distracted driving, which compares greatly to drunken driving, laws should be set and enforced. Not only should laws dealing with this issue be made and met, these laws should be heavily enforced until all drivers and passengers understand the risks and consequences of such an act. Distracted driving can be broken down into three different types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive.
Visual is the distraction that takes the driver’s eyes off the road. Manual is the distraction of taking the driver’s hands off of the wheel. Cognitive is the distraction that occurs when the driver starts thinking of things other than the road ahead. Texting while driving is the most alarming distraction because it involves all three types of distractions at once. With many diverse distractions falling under each of these three categories, Congressman Eliot L. Engel from New York eagerly joined the U. S. Department of Transportation’s “efforts in curbing distracted driving. The bill, H. R. 1772 Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2011, “directs the Secretary of Transportation to make distracted driving prevention incentive grants for each fiscal year to states that enact laws that prohibit and establish fines for texting and/or handheld cellphone use while driving6. ” This Act came about when the President, Barrack Obama, signed a law having to deal with “Moving Ahead in the 21st century”. This action trickles down from the federal government and onto the state and local governments.
The federal governments provide the grants, and in return, the state and local governments provide the enforcement of the federal guidelines prohibiting distracted driving. Representative Engel also agrees with Secretary Ray Lahood, United States Secretary of Transportation, when he says, “distracted driving has become a deadly epidemic6”. With an 11% increase in distracted driving deaths for the year of 2011, Representative Engel is accurate in agreeing that distracted driving is a deadly epidemic. “This grant program will provide approximately $17. million to states that have laws banning distracted driving in the fiscal year 2013…an additional $5 million to develop paid advertising to support state enforcement of laws against distracted driving2. ” Engel and Lahood see these grants as large investments in the future through education on texting and driving. With the technology of smart phones and phones in general, Global Positioning Systems, advanced radios, and passengers, new drivers are not getting properly educated and disciplined on the consequences of distracted driving because these advancements are all they know when it comes time for them to drive.
Lahood says, “This new grant program will provide states that have distracted driving laws with important resources to help save lives and prevent injuries2. ” During the National Distracted Driving Summit, it was announced that remarkable statistics have shown baring texting and driving has raised positive outcome with more than 550 companies vowing to implement rules against distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pilot programs in Hartford, Connecticut and Syracuse, New York indicate that enforcing restrictions on cell phone use is yielding positive results8.
Also during this Summit, those who oppose this law were able to relay their thoughts. The overall effectiveness of anti-distracted driving laws were brought up. The number one disapprover of this Act, Adrian Lund, president of the Highway Loss Data Institute, says, after studies, “Texting bans haven’t reduced crashes at all…crashes have actually increased8. ” Lahood fired back, calling the study “completely misleading” and that Lund’s research did not include all information8.
Other than the few, Highway Loss Data Institute and The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, who do not approve of the distracted driving laws, the Act of 2011 has many strong supporters8. With celebrities such as the talk host Oprah Winfrey encouraging viewers to sign a document saying they will not text and drive, and the Jonas Brothers asking fans to join them in their pledge against the practice; the word is being spread about the dangers8. Though the publicity is able to reach a certain percentage of drivers; that percentage and the remaining percent should not be neglected and should be reached through other means of knowledge.
With facts and persuasion, thirty states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have all banned texting and driving, along with eight states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands banning the use of any hand held devices. Law enforcement has been able to go through with these laws by defining driving, personal wireless communications, primary offense, public road, and texting: “‘Driving’ means operating a motor vehicle on a public road, including operation while temporarily stationary because of traffic. Personal Wireless Communications Device’ means a device through which personal wireless services are transmitted. ‘Texting’ means reading from or manually entering data into a personal wireless communications device, including doing so for the purpose of SMS texting, emailing, and instant messaging. ‘Primary Offense’ means an offense for which a law enforcement officer may stop a vehicle solely for the purpose of issuing a citation in absence of evidence of another offense5. “‘Driving’ means operating a motor vehicle on a public road, including operation while temporarily stationary because of traffic. ‘Personal Wireless Communications Device’ means a device through which personal wireless services are transmitted. ‘Texting’ means reading from or manually entering data into a personal wireless communications device, including doing so for the purpose of SMS texting, emailing, and instant messaging. Primary Offense’ means an offense for which a law enforcement officer may stop a vehicle solely for the purpose of issuing a citation in absence of evidence of another offense5. ” With these definitions laid out for all drivers, there leaves little room to argue the law. With rules and guidelines set for drivers, the states also have guidelines to follow in order to receive financial support for their individual pursuits to decrease distracted driving accidents.
The major requirements within the long list of requirements are establishing a minimum fine for the first violation with increased fines as the number of violations increase, prohibition of youth cell phone use, prohibition of a driver younger than 18 from using personal wireless communication devices, and required distracted driving issues to be tested as a part of the State’s Driver’s License examination5. One controversy that has come with this Act is the question of how the government plans on paying for these grants; where will all this money come from when given out to states.
With these grants coming out of taxpayer’s money, these grants have become an issue. Representative Black, Republican -Tennessee, led the opposition to the distracted driving grants, already approved by senators. Using the 10th amendment, she insists “the federal government should not be manipulating state law through taxpayer funded distracted driving grants10. ” Representative Black explains to the House that what is best for one state might not be best for another state, therefore causing many of the problems in this plan.
With this issue brought up, Rep. Black points out and highlights that distracted driving laws should just be left up to each individual state and not mandated from the federal government. During Representative Black’s speech to the House, she brought up many good points; such as all of the grant money coming from taxpayer’s money, but the overarching point of this act and these laws were not recognized. With matters such as drinking and driving or texting and driving, they will not be conquered without major enforcements.
The federal government is trying to take this matter into their own hands out of the desire to stop distracted driving, increase the education on distracted driving, and to decrease the number of wrecks and deaths due to distracted driving per year. Representative Black makes the point about letting the states decide because laws vary state to state and even with these guidelines coming down from the federal government the states are still able to go about decreasing distracted driving in their own manner with the small list of guidelines given by the federal government.
The federal government is not trying to control each state and local government but merely help get hard hitting issues under control, therefore granting money to do so. The majority of studies show that drivers as a whole understand that texting and driving is dangerous but without any more thought commit this act anyways. An online survey of 1,999 teens ages 16-19 found that 86% had driven while distracted even though 84% know it’s dangerous. Through the campaign “Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks. ” Over thirty basic statistics are shown.
A texting driver is twenty three times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver says Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in 2009. In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U. S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving11. With H. R. 1772 Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2011, the grants developed will not only enforce discipline through citations and law enforcement, but will raise public awareness.
This Prevention Act is needed for the education of current and upcoming drivers, recommitting citations, law enforcement, and the decrease in texting and driving, and the decrease in wrecks and deaths due to distracted driving. H. R. 1772 Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2011 was introduced to the congressional committee in the 112th Congress on May 05, 2011. This bill’s description given to the congressional committee was to “amend titles 23 and 49 [which both deal with National Highway Traffic Safety], United States Code, to reduce injuries and deaths caused by cell phone use and texting while driving, and for other purposes. After many hearings led by Representative Eliot Engel, Democratic -New York, the bill and its supporters are waiting for it to be reported by the committee, passed to the House, then passed to the Senate, and finalized by the President’s signature12. According to govtrack. us, this bill has a zero percent chance of being enacted. The Prevention Act is a re- introduction of H. R. 3994, Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2009, brought up in the 111th Congress that had a negative three percent impact (-3%)12.
With the sponsor of this bill being a member of the minority party, a negative two percent (-2%) adds into the likelihood of this bill being passed12. The only positive actualities of this bill and its sponsors is the bill’s cosponsors, Donna Christensen (Democratic – Virgin Islands) and Carolyn Maloney (Democratic – New York), who are also a member of the minority party, has a high leadership score, adding a positive three percent (+3)12. A key fact given by the legislation is that only four percent (4%) of all House of Representatives bills in 2009-2010 were actually enacted12.
The U. S Department of Transportation has yet to be able to make distracted driving illegal on its own because the jurisdiction falls under each state. Even though nothing has been passed by Congress, many states have stepped up to pass tough laws against distracted driving. With optimistic thinking, Representative Engel still pushes forward and continues to campaign his hope for change on our highways and in our auto vehicles through Congress.
A recent law was mandated in Fort Lee, New Jersey prohibiting pedestrians from texting. This law was highly ridiculed, but the local government’s thought process was “if we cannot stop drivers from texting, we better make sure that pedestrians do not text so they can keep their eyes peeled for reckless drivers. This concept seems outlandish, but without the support of the federal government through the Distracted Driving Prevention Act some places around the country cannot enforce such laws alone.
If legislation approves this bill statistic will plummet tremendously leaving the highways, vehicles, and drivers in a safer environment when teenagers like Ashley Johnson are driving to tutor other young adults or elderly ladies like Mrs. Davis taking their daily walk. Distracted driving is common, tempting, and deadly and through H. R
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