Should Cell Phone Use While Driving be Illegal?

During the evening in September of 2008, a Metrolink train slammed into a Union Pacific train in Chatsworth, Callifornia. This accident killed 25 people and injured 135, going down as one of the deadliest train crashes in U.S. history. Cell phone records show that the engineer of the at-fault train was both sending and recieving text messages at the time of the crash.

In our homestate of Missouri, a 19-year-old pickup truck driver who caused a deadly crash in 2010 sent or received 11 texts in the 5 minutes immediately before the crash. Both tragedies shocked the nation, but similar incidents continue to litter our news reports. In 2011, around 3,300 fatalities were caused by distracted drivers in the United States. The most common cause of distraction listed from the crashes was cell phones. Could this unnecessary loss of life be mitigated by legislation, stricter enforcement, or increased education?

Over the course of the past few years, both federal and state agencies have developed notices on the use of cell phones while driving.  The National Transportation Safety Board even recommended that states ban any and all use of cell phones by drivers. Thus far, 39 states (not including Missouri) ban texting while driving for all drivers.

Unfortunately, research and accident data suggests that the problem of using a cell phone while driving is getting worse, despite state bans. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, around 26% of all American drivers said they text while they drive. A similar study of the University of Michigan reports that around 60% of drivers use cell phones while they drive. Evidence suggests that texting while driving slows a driver’s reaction time to the equivalency of a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level.

Texting and driving is particulary popular with young drivers. The NTSB reported that almost half of drivers between 21 and 24 years of age have admitted to sending texts and emails while driving. Hampton University research shows that young adults do not think that it is dangerous for them to text and drive, but they do feel threatened by the thought of others texting and driving.

In an effort to reduce the occurence of texting while driving, the General Assembly has proposed a fine of $250 for a first offense. Only time will tell how well these measures work at reducing texting while driving. But, for now, no state has deemed cell phone usage illegal for drivers. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a Missouri car accident wherein you believe the other driver was distracted or texting while driving, you may be entitled to compensation. To find out more and to speak to an experienced St. Louis car crash attorney today for free, call 314.409.7060.

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