Cell Phone Use Still Causing a Rise in Auto Accident Deaths
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,400 traffic deaths in 2015 were a direct result of distracted driving. Another 391,000 people were injured.
As a way of decreasing those numbers, a few states have taken steps to crack down on distracted driving by closing legal loopholes and hitting distracted drivers hard with increased fines and penalties.
Washington State Closes Distracted-Driving Loophole
A few weeks ago, officials in Washington State enacted one of the strictest laws to combat distracted driving. The law now makes it illegal for drivers to hold any electronic device, even when stopped at an intersection or stopped due to heavy traffic.
The prohibition on holding a device while behind the wheel was developed to close a loophole in the previous law. In a news report, Washington State Trooper Russ Winger explained:
“Before this law, the only things people could get a ticket for was texting and holding the phone up to their ear. Now we can pull someone over for having any electronics in their hand.”
In addition, the law prohibits drivers from eating, drinking, or applying makeup while driving. All of these acts are considered distractions, and those observed breaking the law can be fined if caught.
Only Hands-Free Cell Phones for Oregon Drivers
The past June, Oregon legislators also approved a stricter distracted-driving bill that makes it illegal to hold and use a cell phone when driving; hands-free is the only legal means of using a cell phone when behind the wheel. This new law came to be after Oregon saw 495 deaths on state roads in 2016, which was a 58 percent increase over a three-year period. The new legislation sets a maximum fine of $2,000, up from $500.
Colorado Also Restricts Cell Phone Use While Driving
While not as strict as Washington State and Oregon, the State of Colorado does have in place some restrictions on cell phone use while operating a vehicle. Currently, the law states:
- It is illegal for drivers 18 and younger, or drivers with a learner’s permit, to use a cell phone while driving. The only exceptions are if you need to report an emergency or if you are parked.
- If you are caught using a cell phone illegally, you can be fined $50 for the first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses.
When it comes to texting while driving in Colorado, in March of this year, lawmakers passed legislation that cracks down on texting by levying tougher fines for anyone, regardless of age, caught texting while driving. The fine used to be $50 and one point on a driver’s record; drivers who accumulate enough violation points can lose their licenses. Now, the fine is $300 and four points.
Distracted Driving Continues to Be a Huge Problem
The recent implementation of strict laws about cell phone use and driving is a direct result of a continuing problem with distracted drivers. All across the country, distracted drivers are causing auto accidents leading to injury and, in a lot of instances, death. Here in Colorado, more than 15,000 crashes and 68 deaths in 2015 were a direct result of distracted driving.
What’s so disappointing is that people do realize that distracted driving is a huge problem. For example, a study by the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction noted that 98 percent of those surveyed in a national study said they know distracted driving is dangerous, yet 75 percent of those surveyed admit to driving while distracted. One wonders what it’s going to take to make drivers put the phone down and focus on the road ahead of them.