How to Stop Texting and Driving
You know it’s wrong. You know it’s dangerous. And it’s also illegal in most states. So why is it so hard to stop texting and driving?
We’ve become conditioned to pick up the phone as soon as it chimes or buzzes. We’ve grown accustomed to communicating with friends and family instantaneously. And it’s hard to fight that reflex while you’re driving — but it’s something you absolutely must do.
Why Is Texting and Driving Bad?
There’s no way around it: Texting and driving kills people. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured every day in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver. “Distracted” means the driver is doing something that takes his or her attention away from driving, such as talking on the phone or, increasingly, texting.
Texting while driving seems harmless — it only takes a moment to tap out a message, right? “Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded,” according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. Try a texting and driving simulator to see how well you drive while distracted.
Teenagers get blamed most often for texting while driving, but a recent survey by AT&T found that more adults than teens — 49 percent vs. 43 percent — admit they text and drive. Worse, a full 98 percent of adults say they know they’re doing something wrong.
How to Stop Texting and Driving
While it may seem simple to stop, resisting the urge to pick up the phone can be hard. Here are a few tips that might help.
1. Turn your phone on silent
“Texting behind the wheel has consequences.”
Switching your phone to silent doesn’t work unless you turn off the vibration too. If you’re one of the millions of people who own an iPhone, put the device on airplane mode, which shuts off the phone’s reception. That way, you won’t receive any emails, texts, calls or notifications until you’re at your destination.
2. Download a safety app
If willpower is not enough, get some technological help. There’s an abundance of apps that offer ways to make you stop texting and driving. Here are just a few.
- Drivesafe.ly is a free phone app (a paid version is also available) that reads incoming texts aloud and automatically responds.
- Textecution is a paid Android app that disables texting functions when the user is moving faster than 10 mph. It’s designed primarily for parents who want to prevent their children from texting and driving.
- DriveMode, free for AT&T customers, auto-replies to incoming texts when the user is moving faster than 25 mph.
3. Put your phone in the trunk
The old adage “out of sight, out of mind” can be applied to texting and driving. If you can’t see or hear your phone, then you won’t be able to use it. Before you start the car, place your mobile device in the trunk. Even if you get the urge to look at your phone, you’ll be forced to pull over and get out of the car to do so. Stop at a gas station or other pit stop to take calls. Standing on the side of the road is dangerous.
4. Ask friends to respect your commute
Share your mission to be a safer driver with your friends and ask them politely to not contact you during the hours of your commute. It’s perfectly fine to set mobile boundaries.
How the Police Bust Texters
Texting while driving is one area where Johnny Law is still playing catch-up to Joe & Jane Driver. But the gap is narrowing every day.
With 46 states banning texting while driving as of the May 2015, it’s becoming less of an enforcement afterthought with police and more of an area of focus. But how do police catch drivers who are texting from mobile devices? And how have these tactics evolved with increased enforcement? Here are a few ways by which police are stepping up their enforcement game:
- Going incognito: Setting up stings and going undercover is nothing new for law enforcement. But texting ban enforcement has forced them to think about outside the standard plainclothes protocol. One North Carolina Highway Patrol sting operation, for example, had troopers dress up and drive state transportation pickup trucks so they could peak into the vehicles of unsuspecting drivers and radio ahead to uniformed officers if they witnessed violations. Other reported tactics include having officers dress up as panhandlers and manning higher ground or other strategic vantage points.
- Looking for signs of distraction: A texting driver may exhibit many of the dangerous driving behaviors of a motorist under the influence of alcohol or other substances. These include crossing the center line, pausing when lights turn green, etc. This is plenty of visual evidence for a police officer to pull over a driver for further investigation.
- Analyzing cell phone records: This is a tactic that’s primarily used for accidents where texting while driving is a suspected cause. Computer forensics officers will look to retrieve mobile phone records to see if texting was occurring at the time of an accident.
- Using high-tech tools: Imagine a radar gun that can be used to detect texting. This innovation is closer than you may think. In fact, a Virginia company is working to complete the technology that would allow officers to “point and capture” the presence of texting with a device that looks similar to a radar gun. It’s important to note that the developers are keeping privacy concerns in mind. There is a difference between noting the presence of texting and tapping into the actual data being exchanged.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1,100 people are injured every day by distracted drivers. While enforcement is now evolving to include more creative and cutting-edge techniques, these numbers will be worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
Focusing on Distracted Driving Nationwide
Most states have some form of distracted driving laws, but right now most of them are very different from each other. It’s important to know the laws in your home state, but if you plan on traveling it’s also smart to know what the laws are in the state or states in which you’ll be driving. Not only are the laws themselves different, but the punishment for the crime varies as well. Some states are only enforcing small fines, while other states have crippling fines (most notably Alaska, which imposes a $10,000 penalty for texting while driving).
Texting and driving is an ongoing problem and states are looking to stamp it out as quickly as they can because, despite how harmless you may think it is, texting and driving is becoming as serious as drunk driving in terms of being a threat to the wellbeing of the general public.
Take time to learn the laws and obey them–for your safety and for the safety of others.