Just How Serious Is the Texting and Driving Problem?

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(Newswire.net — December 25, 2019) — Despite highly publicized information about the dangers of texting and driving, it continues to be a leading cause of accidents all over the country. According to the NHTSA, distracted driving claimed 3,166 lives in 2017, and that number seems to be on an increasing trend. In nonfatal accidents, distractions are often a contributing factor—if not the first link in the causal chain leading to the accident.

It’s gotten to the point where some auto accident attorneys specialize in handling texting and driving accidents; the accidents are so common, yet so preventable, victims deserve to take legal action to ensure they’re compensated adequately.

But if texting and driving is so preventable, and people seem to know how dangerous it is, why do distracted driving accidents keep happening?

Slow Progress on Legislation

Fortunately, over the past few years, several states have taken action to pass laws banning the use of mobile devices while driving. However, up until this point, politicians have been slow to act. Currently, there are several states with no state-wide laws banning texting and driving. For example, in Arizona, there aren’t any laws related to texting and driving, and in Florida, the prohibition of texting and driving is only a secondary law, meaning law officers can only take action if there’s another offense, like speeding or running through a stop sign.

This has a two-pronged effect. First, it allows most text-and-drivers to remain unpunished and unafraid. If there aren’t any immediate consequences to texting and driving, they’re going to keep doing it unabated—even if the statistics prove how dangerous it really is. Second, it sets a tone that the problem isn’t a priority in this area. The conversation never gets started because there’s no initial prompt, and people continue their lives the same way they always have.

The Call of Notifications

There aren’t reliable statistics available for the number of collisions following a person who sent a text message unprompted versus the number of collisions following a person who responded to an incoming text. However, it seems likely that incoming texts are a bigger cause of distraction; there’s an initiating event, like a vibration or a ringtone, that could immediately pull the driver’s eyes off the road, if only for a second. In fact, most apps are designed to catch our attention, demanding us to review new information as quickly as possible. We’re so acclimated to reviewing notifications and responding to people immediately, it becomes hard to break the pattern, even when you’re on the road.

The Overconfidence Effect

We also have to acknowledge the power of the overconfidence effect, especially as it manifests in this area. In short, this cognitive bias is responsible for most people to, perplexingly, believe themselves to be better than average at just about everything. For example, they tend to think they’re better drivers than they actually are.

How does this affect the texting and driving problem? Many people who aren’t involved in collisions when texting and driving believe themselves to be “good” at texting and driving, or capable of driving safely even while distracted. They believe the statistics only apply to “most” people, and therefore don’t apply to them. Accordingly, they continue to text and drive frequently, ignorant to the danger they’re introducing to themselves and others.

A Note on Distracted Driving

While texting and driving is a serious problem, and an example of distracted driving, it’s important to note that texting (and mobile device use in general) isn’t the only type of distracted driving. Distracted driving is currently the leading cause of fatal car accidents in the United States, and in 65,000 surveyed accidents, 62 percent were due to a driver who was simply “lost in thought.”

This is significant because while texting and driving is often singled out as an exclusive culprit in the majority of modern car accidents, distracted driving can be just as deadly (and just as common). Putting your mobile device in the glove compartment while you drive can be a positive step to improve your road safety, but it’s not going to help you if you’re eating while driving, or if you’re rubbernecking after an accident in front of you, or if you’re daydreaming while on the road.

So just how serious is the texting and driving problem? It remains one of the biggest motivating factors for auto accidents in the United States, and not enough people are taking it seriously. Most states are working aggressively to crack down on distracted driving, but their efforts are slow, and oftentimes not enough to protect drivers and innocent bystanders from danger. That said, texting and driving still only makes up a portion of all distracted driving accidents; it’s important for us to acknowledge that all forms of distracted driving are dangerous, since it’s not only potentially fatal, it’s ridiculously easy to prevent.