In the US and other parts of the world, driver distraction is a key concern. Research indicates a large percentage of road crashes occur because drivers get distracted by something which can either be within or without the vehicle. The most current concern is the use of devices that are hand held by drivers. Mobile devices such as tablets and phones are highlighted as the major driver distraction cause. Similarly majority of drivers also get distracted by music system in the vehicles. Though this is the case, not everyone buys into the idea use of mobile phone is the main cause of driver distraction. These individuals believe a driver is necessitated into using a mobile phone for good reason (Titerina, 2009). As such, the government is not supposed to pin road crashes on the use of mobile phones but rather look for other factors that lead to deaths and crashes on our highways and roads.
Warren (2012) believes the government depends on lawyers of car accidents who put the blame on phone use whenever an accident occurs. He is of the opinion most accidents that cause deaths are the result of not using seat belts. However, the police are also always quick to place the blame of accidents on phone usage. Warren joins others who believe different approaches are supposed to be taken in order to avert road crashes. The government spend too much on jails, prosecutors and police but this does not lead to any relate changes on road safety. The negative, long effect is felt whenever the police carry out arrests and searches without enough reasons.
Majority of states have already enacted laws regulating use of devices that are handheld while driving. Majority of these legislations are aimed at regulating what drivers of different age groups do while driving at any given time. It is crucial to look at the ethical nature of the argument made by Warren taking into consideration that road crashes lead to deaths on our roads.
First, visual distraction is the main cause of road crashes and not a cognitive distraction as is suggested by certain studies. A large percentage of drivers are distracted by other visual things when driving demand is low to encounter emergencies. Apart from the usage of mobiles, drinking, eating as well as other behaviors can lead to driver distraction. Titerina et al (2011) designed a workload simulated manager in the attempt of finding out driver responses when distracted while they are driving and when they are not. According to their findings, drivers who were not distracted recorded high level of alertness in responding to emergency. Drivers who were distracted recorded a longer duration in responding to braking since it took a longer time for their foot to move towards the brake. (Titerina, et al., 2011). On that same note, their study indicated delays were occasioned by the duration it takes for the mind to process the interruption and collision object.
Majority of drivers are unable to respond in the appropriate manner to instances of emergency that are the result of distraction within 3 seconds, resulting to horrible deaths. Reading a text or texting has specifically been found to increase crashing chances by 23 percent compared to other drivers. According to the US Department of Transportation, use of cell phones by drivers causes up to 1.6 million crashes, 6,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries annually. Irrespective of these numbers, there is a large number of drivers who confess to have received emails or sent texts while driving. Younger people have the tendency of doing this more than their older counterparts. This demands for extra vigilance on the part of the security and care on the driver’s side. Research as well indicated at any given time, 11% of the drivers use cell phones to text, read messages or call.
The increased use of mobile phones is due to the recent technological advancements in the communication industry. Precisely because of this, smartphone development has presented convenience in communication something that might have contributed to the increased use of the same among drivers. These phones as well come with packages for text messaging. However, the drivers are encouraged to pay attention to their safety rather than being blinded by the convenience that comes with smartphones (Titerina, et al., 2011). Opponents of this assert drunk driving is a far more serious offense than the use of mobile phones while driving. Research, on the contrary, indicates auto accidents brought about by handheld devices and drunk driving have different impacts.
A 2009 research carried out by Car and Driver magazine found that unimpaired driving, driving while reading mail or sending text, and drunk driving affect the driver’s ability to respond well to emergencies (Austin, 2009). To carry out this experiment, two real cars were used on an airstrip. The findings revealed a driver at 35mph responded slowly to an emergency (0.12 and 0.87 seconds) while reading a text (Austin, 2009). Alternatively, an increase of 0.01 and 0.07 seconds reaction time was recorded in impaired driving (Austin, 2009). Similar research found that stopping distances were also got affected by such conditions. For instance, a driver that was impaired took 0.54 seconds to bring their car to a stop (Austin 2009). A driver that was drunk added four feet before braking a car, reading of an email lead to an additional 36 feet before final stop while sending a text led to additional 70 feet before braking (Austin, 2009). This proves the fact that the use of a mobile phone is a major distraction compared to drunk driving.
Arguments are raised on the actual impact of using mobile phones on-road crashes. Some individuals are of the opinion things are not half as bad as it is portrayed by researchers. For example, police reports indicate mobile phone subscription has increased sharply in the last 2 decades from ten million subscribers during the early 1990s to three hundred million at present. This however does not translate to an increase in mobile use crashes on the roads. The police report indicates road crashes, in the last 2 decades have been on a decline (see table 1 below). As such, the impact that is brought about by the use of mobile phones in relation to auto crashes is not known in the US. This as well means recent attacks on texting are misplaced since, in the last twenty years, there has been a tremendous rise in text messages and a decrease in the rate of deaths.
Figure 1: Cell Phone Trends and Crash Rates
Source: U.S Department of Transportation
The increased road crashes incidences that are occasioned by the distraction of drivers have led to stronger government legislation laws seeking to discourage individuals from losing their focus while driving. Nevertheless, while there are laws seeking to discourage individuals from non-use of phones while driving, risk analysis should be carried out in order to ensure the economy never suffers. Elimination of crashes that are the result of handheld devices would total $43 billion annually (Titerina, 2009). However, if phone use while driving is banned, it will amount to a similar amount of call losses an aspect that needs to be properly approached. The use of mobile phones as well leads to increased productivity among citizens. For example, unnecessary journeys can be eliminated whenever drivers communicate with others, therefore, saving on time and fuel. Families are able to live in perfect peace and harmony as well since they can communicate with other members of the family while on the road. Making calls while driving also helps in reporting criminal activities that might be taking place within a given region (Titerina, 2009). This means banning cell phone use while driving can lead to an increased rate of crime in the country.
To conclude, it is important to state the arguments on driver distraction are aimed at continuing to elicit varying reactions. The argument Warren forwarded means use of electronic gadgets is likely to increase with time among drivers. The magnitude and nature of distraction to drivers differ something that does not match to research findings from simulations. On the same note, it is clear talking and listening on handheld devices may not cause distraction as is the case with visual distraction (Titerina, 2009). More importantly, hand-free devices are way safer than hand-held ones. The best approach includes carrying out public education which sensitizes citizens regarding the dangers of driver distraction. One of the many distractions that lead to auto crashes is texting while driving.
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