We’ve all encountered it while driving: the person obviously not focused on the road, weaving, going slower than the rest of traffic, or slowing down and speeding up unpredictably. It used to be that we would all have the same thought: drunk driver. Now, often as not, it’s something else: a texter. While most states have enacted laws to ban the act of texting and driving, all recent studies indicate the number of drivers who text and drive has continued to increase. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, only 3 states have no legislation of any sort regarding the activity of text messaging and driving: Arizona, Montana and South Carolina. In fact, in a recent survey of drivers between the ages of 18 and 69, a whopping 31% of respondents admitted that they had texted while driving in the prior thirty days.
The resulting damage from texting is real. In 2011 alone, nearly 390,000 people were either injured or killed as the result of distracted drivers. While not all of those drivers were texting (the statistics don’t break out separate categories for texting, talking on a cellphone or eating, for example), experts agree that a significant proportion of distracted-driver accidents are related to texting. In fact, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that texting and driving creates a crash risk 23 times higher than driving without the distraction of texting. And people who are inclined to text while they drive are more likely to engage in other risky driving behavior, as well.
In 2011, the CDC conducted the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a study of recognized risky behaviors among youth. The results are chilling. The data shows that students who text while driving are nearly twice as likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking and five times as likely to drink and drive than students who don’t text while driving.
The disregard for the dangers associated with texting has led some to argue that punitive damages should be awardable in “texting and driving” cases, just as drunk driving cases. Punitive damages are intended to punish and express society’s disapproval of bad conduct. Is it any less of an offense than drinking to choose to distract yourself from the road while you drive and cause injury?
What are your thoughts on texting and driving?
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