Due to multi-million dollar public advertising campaigns from safety groups, the government, and wireless phone carriers, the public is definitely aware of the dangers of distracted driving. Unfortunately, awareness of the threat does equal effective elimination of the threat posed by motorists using cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices while behind the wheel.
In most cases, the law always lags behind the problem it intends to fix. Texting and driving accidents provides the most recent example of a known, growing problem that the law took a reactive, instead of proactive, role. For instance, despite the fact that cell phones and text messaging have been around for more than a decade, Alabama just passed a law prohibiting drivers from texting while behind the wheel. To date, there are still 5 states without any state law regarding texting and driving.
In August of this year, Alabama officially joined the majority of states prohibiting drivers from texting and driving. However, before its passage, many commentators argued that the law would have little to no practical impact on the number of distracted drivers in our state. Specifically, critics of the law felt that the ban presented major enforcement problems that would essentially render it useless or open to arbitrary enforcement.
We are all aware that the Alabama legislature enacted a texting-while-driving ban in the summer of 2012. Due to a recent growth in national texting and driving campaigns, most drivers now accept the fact that texting and cell phone use while behind the wheel is a growing hazard for motorists everywhere. However, with all the attention on texting, many forget that the true hazard is not limited just to cell phones. Any device or any activity that competes for a driver's attention presents a real risk of a catastrophic car accident.
According to a recent traffic safety survey by the University of Michigan, teen drivers are 26 times more likely to text while driving than their parents think they are. The survey, which was funded by Toyota Motor Corp., involved 5,500 people across the nation -- teen drivers 16 to 18 and their parents.
The Hoover school district, along with support of city officials, has launched a safety campaign geared at educating students on the dangers of texting and driving. Officials hope the awareness campaign, which runs from October 29 to November 2, will ultimately reduce the number of local teenagers who engage in distracted driving.
The dangers of texting and driving have become a national concern within the last year. As many are aware, Alabama joined the bandwagon of states enacting statutes aimed at reducing the number of distracted driving accidents. However, many critics were skeptical of the effectiveness of the law, claiming that the fines associated with a violation are inadequate to incentivize people to stop texting while behind the wheel.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just introduced a new federal grant program designed to eliminate distracted driving accidents. The program, part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, authorizes the NHTSA to distribute $17.5 million in federal grant monies to states who have laws banning texting and driving.
A New Jersey judge has ruled that a third-party texter cannot be sued for texting a driver who caused an accident. This decision comes on the heels of a national movement to ban texting while driving. The crash resulted in serious injuries to a man and woman on a motorcycle.