Professor Adam Zellner
New Jersey Politics
March 13, 2014
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
In this day and age technology has become such a huge part of our lives. It influences each and every one of us primarily for the better but that is not always the case. In this past century the use of cell phones and other handheld devices have increased significantly. Along with that so has the amount of distracted driving. In the state of New Jersey there is a handheld ban for all drivers. Novice drivers under the age of 21 are banned from cell phone usage whether it is hand held or hands free. There is a ban on texting for all drivers. These are the three primary laws that exist in New Jersey. This does not stop distracted drivers however.
Distracted driving is defined as “the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity, typically one that involves the use of a cellular phone or other electronic device”. It basically translates to if any activity is being conducted that takes the drivers attention away from the road, that is a classification of distracted driving. Examples of distracted driving include but are not limited to, texting, using a cell phone, taking a selfie, using a hand held device, adjusting the radio or music system, watching a video or going through pictures, adjusting the navigation system, reading, talking to passengers and doing ones hair or makeup even (Distraction.Gov). Some of these examples might sound ridiculous, but they all do contribute to distracted driving in one-way shape or form. There are three types of distracted driving. These are, visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distractions are when you take your eyes of the road. Manual distractions are when you take your hands of the wheel. Cognitive distractions are when you take your mind of the task of driving. Texting is a form of all three. (PADD.org). Distracted driving is so dangerous because it not only affects the driver, but the passengers and the innocent bystanders as well. The number one contributory factor in causes of death of crashes involving distracted drivers, as well as the biggest concern of organizations that are against distracted driving is the use of cell phones and texting. In 2012 alone, 3,328 people were killed in distracted driving crashes, a number that continues to go up (Distraction.Gov). The spread of technology and the increase of distracted driving on our roadways have created an epidemic that is greatly affecting the population. There is no doubt that statistics clearly show how dangerous distracted driving can be. In 2012, there were over 400,000 people that were injured in car accidents involving a distracted driver, which is significantly higher than the 387,000 in 2011 (Distraction.gov). Although this is a problem for people of all ages, drivers under 20 years of age seem to make up a large portion of the distracted drivers. For drivers ages 15-19 involved in fatal car accidents, 21% were using a cell phone at the time of the cars (NHTSA). Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted (Distraction.Gov), It was also found that 25% of teens respond to a text message at least once every time they drive, usually more and 20% of teen drivers admitted to having extended multi-text message conversations with different people while driving (UMTRI). I have seen first hand the impact distracted driving can have on not just a family, but for an entire community.
This issue is very important to me because it affects my generation primarily. The most number of fatal crashes that occur due to distracted driving affect young adults more than any other age group. The reason for this is that our generation is the “technologically advanced” generation. Everyone seems to have an iPhone or a laptop or an iPod these days, even young children. These advances have become so deeply rooted in our society one cannot seem to go a single day without their phone or laptop or other electronic devices. People are constantly going on the Internet and checking their phones whether it is to text some one or post a status update or a picture. Personally this issue not only affects my generation, it hits close to home as well.
On April 15th 2012 Nikki Kellenyi a senior at Washington Township High School was killed, she was only 18. She lived the town over from me. Nikki had a smile that would light up the whole room whenever she walked in it. She was so kind, caring and compassionate. Her death was so unexpected so sudden it left everyone speechless. The whole community was devastated by her loss. I still remember seeing one of my close friends that was very good friends wit her breakdown. The whole thing was honestly so heartbreaking. I remember talking to her father about what happened, he was devastated, I could only imagine the pain and grief he was feeling. I could hear the devastation in his words. This young beautiful smart intelligent girl had so much going for her. She not only was a Straight A student, she had a full ride scholarship to Rider University where she would have attended that fall. Nikki had so much stolen from her that day when she lost her life due to the driver’s careless ways. Nikki didn’t get to go to her senior prom, she didn’t get to graduate, she didn’t get to experience college, her father wont be able to walk her down the aisle and she her dressed up as a beautiful bride. All of that was snatched away from her in a moment due to someone’s careless driving. Her future was so bright, only good things were to come and that was all snatched away from her in the blink of an eye. Thinking about what happened to Nikki two years ago still manages to get me very emotional. It’s so sad that this beautiful girl lost her life over something that could very well be prevented and stopped.
The driver of the car Nikki was a passenger in was cited for driving carelessly. It is clear that when the driver made that left turn she was distracted by something that prevented her from looking and seeing the pick up truck the car collided with that led to Nikki's death. When someone drives distractedly they make a choice to pick up their phone and text, they make the choice to take their eyes of the road and divulge in doing something else. This very well can be prevented. If there were stricter laws, and the knowledge of how dangerous it is to drive distractedly was emphasized, Nikki would be with us today. This issue is so important to me because I don’t want to lose any more friends to distracted driving. Losing one was heartbreaking enough. Distracted driving is a situation that is very well avoidable. Accidents like these that kill thousands each year can be prevented if the proper measures are taken. According to a PEW study, in 2012, 3092 people were killed in crashes with a distracted driver (8-9/day). 416,000 people were injured in accidents where the driver was reportedly distracted. 11% of all drivers under the age of 20 years old involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the accident (PADD.org). This is why the community and the government to stop and prevent these fatal crashes must take the proper measures.
Nikki’s father Michael Kellenyi has started a foundation called PADD. People Against Distracted Driving. On their website Nikki’s father talks about his daughters story and how avoidable the whole situation could’ve been. “Accidents caused by distracted driving are particularly tragic, because of how avoidable they are. If all drivers kept in mind that every time they pick up their phone to take a call or send a text message, they are simultaneously endangering their own and others' lives, accidents may be less prone to happen. Unfortunately, the casualness of a call or text misleadingly prompts drivers to think themselves the rare exception” (PADD.org). This is true today because answering a text or call has become such a casual thing for us, people fail to realize how grave of an impact it can have in certain situations.
So now the question is, what has been done so far to address the issue of distracted driving? A bill that required signs to be posted that warn people the dangers of texting and driving has been passed. This law requires signs, electronic messages and billboards and other forms of ads to remind drivers that texting while driving is against the law. This law is called Nikki’s Law and was passed June 23rd 2013 (Nj.com). Senator Fred Madden sponsored the Bill in the senate and Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Vincent Prieto and Herb Conaway sponsored the bill in the Assembly. Nikki’s Law was then signed by Governor Christie and passed. This law did not cost any money to the state because Mike Kellenyi was able to raise money to help pay for these signs, that state law now requires posted all over to warn people of the dangers and implications of distracted driving. “Nikki’s Law was signed into law in New Jersey by New Jersey Governor Christie on August 14, 2013. The law requires the New Jersey transportation department to erect signs on state roadways warning of the dangers of distracted driving and reminding drivers that texting while driving carries stiff criminal penalties in New Jersey. Nikki’s father, Michael Kellenyi, and his wife Gina Kellenyi are the founders of People Against Distracted Driving (www.padd.org). Mike initiated legislation with the help of the 2013 Miss Atlantic County and it was passed unanimously by the New Jersey legislature and unanimously before the New Jersey Senate before being signed by the governor” (PADD.Org). Mike had to start his endeavor to getting this bill passed through the local government, first by creating community awareness and having people partner up with him to realize that this is not a irrelevant matter. Tragedy occurs each and every day and the distracted drivers are not only putting themselves at risk but putting others at risk as well.
We have established what has been done thus far so now the question is what else can be done to deal with this issue? What I would do to deal with this issue is go to local car dealership and found out where the nearest cars are manufactured. Once getting this information I would contact them and find out, what is the proto type that is used to create the blue tooth system in cars. Technology is undoubtedly advancing, that is the very reason behind why the amount of distracted driving has increased, but what if technology can be utilized to stop distracted driving? I would talk to the manufacturers about a built in blue tooth system that is created in a unique way that would create a magnetic field that as soon as one enters the car they would not be able to send or receive texts or access the internet/ use their phone because the cars new Bluetooth signal system would prevent the signal from working. This system would automatically turn on as soon as someone started the car, and all calls that were to be administered would only be accessible through the blue tooth device. The only exception to this rule would be to call emergency services such as 911. After bringing up this prototype idea to the manufacturers and suppose they decide to create this prototype I would go back to my local dealership and ask them to start selling these cars with the new feature. As an incentive I would tell them that each car that they sold with this new feature available, the local government would give them a reimbursement of 5% of the total value of the car. This would give the dealership an incentive to sell more of these cars and the government would benefit because the fatality rate would go down, as well as the costs of the damages of the accident would go down. That idea might be a little farfetched and more difficult to put to action. Another possible idea however is the creation of an app on the cell phone that would prompt people to turn off text messaging and calling features unless it was through Bluetooth as soon as they entered the car. They could go to local wireless carrier stores and ask them to spread the word about this new app, and if they were to download and use this app each month the wireless provider would reduce their total phone bill by a portion. In this class we talked about starting small and working our way up. Distracted driving deaths are a epidemic that have swept the nation, taking lives of many young adults. This issue is something that needs to be addressed immediately and the best way to do so is by starting at a local level. I would talk to my local mayor about spreading the word of this new app and suggest that in return for cell phone companies doing so the local government would reimburse each store with 5% of the total revenue that was made from these phones. I would go about and advocate this new app in schools through assemblies as well as go to driving schools and talk about this new app to spread the word. I would talk about it to parents as well with children that are young drivers and make sure at local community and city hall meetings I would illustrate the importance of this app and how it could prevent fatalities occurring due to distracted driving. Also I would talk to insurance companies and through the government give them an incentive to lower peoples insurance if they have this app and use it. We all know how expensive insurance can be for new drivers so this would provide an incentive for parents to make their children get this app. Once I have begun to launch my new app and illustrate to the community the benefits of having this add I would collect statistics of the rate of crashes occurring due to distracted driving and I would go to the state government and attempt to have legislation passed to mandate that children and young adults aged 16-20 must turn this app on every time they are behind the wheel. Similar to the red sticker law that was passed for drivers that were under the age of 18. There are many ways to attempt and go about preventing this issue. The easiest way to do so is by working our way up from local governments to higher forms of government. It’s not easy to get legislation passed undoubtedly, but if we all just remain indifferent to issues no change will come about. The only way to change and solve an issue is by taking that first step.
To ultimately be successful it takes a lot of work and effort with the government as was illustrated by Mike Kellenyi’s path of getting Nikki’s Law passed. The goal is to successfully address an issue in a way that provides a better well being for society as a whole. Distracted driving is an epidemic that can be controlled. Nikki’s life was not lost in vain. These laws that are being created not only honor Nikki but all of the people that lost their lives due to distracted driving. Is sending a text that important? A text that could ultimately cause someone to lose his or her lives. Not only is a life lost that day but the lives of all the people involved, the driver, the families and loved ones of the one that is killed is all affected and changed forever all because of that one text. After all, one should look at it like this, one would not pull out and check their phone when they are taking their road test or when they have been stopped by a police officer for driving recklessly, So why should they do so when they are driving in the real world with real life consequences that can end up in taking someone’s life?
“Distracted Driving- Facts and Stats – Texting and Driving”
http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/facts-and-statistics.html 05 Mar. 2014.
“Nikki’s Foundation to End Distracting Driving”
In today’s world, cell phones play a central part in the lives of many people around the world. Tasks such as making calls, texting, taking photos and even surfing the Internet have not only been made easier but have also been made more possible for many more people. As a result, cell phone subscriptions continue to increase globally, As people continue to depend on cell phones for their communication needs, these devices not only become more useful but also more dangerous, especially when used at inappropriate times. One of the most dangerous ways to use cell phones is to text while driving. The available statistics sadly indicate that the number of the people who are engaged in accidents or even lose their lives because of texting while driving is on the increase. This can either mean that people do not really know the kind of danger that they place themselves in when they decide to text while driving or that they actually know the dangers but have chosen to ignore the warnings. The action of many countries around the world to ban the use of cell phones while driving may have served to deter drivers from using their phones as they drive, but the increased number of causalities clearly demonstrates that there is still a lot more that needs to be done.
One of the main reasons that make texting while driving very dangerous is that using the phone reduces a driver’s reaction time in traffic. on busy roads, the amount of time that one talks before reacting to a situation, in most cases, determines whether one gets to continue living. As much as it is both dangerous to call and text while driving, texting while driving is actually more dangerous because one has to constantly look at the screen of the phone in order to type or to read messages. The reduced attention on the road increases the chances that the driver will cause an accident because it reduces the time he has to react to traffic situations. Moreover, studies show that people who text while driving tend to accelerate more slowly after stepping on their brakes. This can cause irregularities for other drivers, leading to possible accidents. Also, since their eyes are more on the text than on the road, drivers who choose to text while driving have a much higher chance of hitting a pedestrian than those not distracted in driving.
A large number of accidents, whether severe or not, usually occur within a twinkle of an eye. This means that just a moment of distraction is enough for a driver to cause a serious road accident. Given the many concerns, it is best if drivers were not only banned from texting but banned from using their phones in any way at all as they drive.
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