One of your friends liked your comment on Facebook. Someone in your Twitter network checked-in to the local Starbucks for free Wi-Fi. You've got a text message!
With mobile usage evermore on the rise, how are we supposed to avoid checking our phones while driving?
Well, according to the latest Pew report on texting while driving, some of us hardly avoid doing it at all. In fact, 27% of American adults and 26% of driving age teens say they have texted while driving, increasingly one of the most common forms of distraction taking our eyes off the road.
Interestingly and maybe a bit surprisingly, the study also found that 61% of adults versus 43% of 16- and 17-year-olds say they have talked on their cell phones while driving. To put it plainly, 44% of adults report having been passengers in a car where the driver is using a cell phone in such a way to put some or all of the passengers in danger.
"Adults may be the ones sounding the alarm on the dangers of distracted driving, but they don’t always set the best example themselves," said Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist at the Internet & American Life Project and co-author of the report.
There's little doubt that all this mobile distraction has an effect on driving: 17% of cell phone-carrying adults admitted to having physically bumped into another person or object because they were engrossed in their own little mobile world. If we translate these little mishaps to the fast-paced and hectic world of driving, results could get ugly.
“It is just as hard for adults as it is for teenagers to resist chatting with friends and sending off that quick text even in the midst of heavy traffic,” said another co-author, Lee Rainie, Director of the Internet & American Life Project.
In recent years, texting while driving has generated a constantly growing discussion in political circles nationwide, from local committees to state legislatures. A Google news search for "texting" always seems to return something current related to texting while driving. Most lately, for example, Birmingham and Gadsden, AL are looking into outlawing the distraction, while two smaller cities, Martins Ferry, Ohio and Medford, Massachusetts have already instituted bans.
Seven states (California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington), D.C., and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Remarkably, novice drivers in 28 states don't even have the option of using hands-free devices. As for text messaging, 28 states, D.C., and Guam ban texting for all drivers, while an additional 9 states only prohibit texting by novice drivers.
The Governors Highway Safety Association has an up-to-date comprehensive guide online outlining exactly which states have enacted which laws.
One cannot help but wonder if the federal government will take the reins on this issue eventually. Let us not forget that truck and bus drivers across the nation are already banned from texting while driving. Those rules could easily be extended to the rest of the driving populace.