Highway crashes are the number one cause of death of young Americans. Teenagers seem to be constantly attached to their cell phone, even while driving. Lawmakers see a connection and are trying to solve this problem. New legislation banning cell phone use while driving is being passed in multiple states and is supported by several studies, but may not be effective in practice.
States all around the country are passing laws prohibiting juvenile drivers with provisional licenses from using their cell phones on the road. Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, and New Jersey are among the eleven states that have either passed laws or are in the process of passing laws against driving while using a cell phone. Minnesota has passed a law, effective January 1, 2006, that will ban anyone driving with a provisional license from using their cell phone on the road. Police officers need only to suspect a juvenile driver of using their phone to pull them over. Teenagers who disobeys this law could lose their license for one year or until they turn 18; whichever is sooner.
These new laws are supported by multiple studies which indicate that cell phone use negatively affects driving. One obvious effect of cell phone use is that only one hand is free to steer the car. Even a hands-free phone can cause serious effects. Drivers tend to divert their attention from the road to their phone conversations. This causes drivers react slower and miss more traffic signals while talking on their cell phones. Young drivers, whom most of the new laws are aimed at, react 18% slower while using a cell phone. Whether or not these studies are accurate, a skeptic could look at the statistics. According to an analysis of 2,258 traffic accidents, distraction from the road and inattention, both effects of talking on a cell phone, were the two leading causes of accidents.
While drivers are negatively affected by talking on their cell phone, a new law might not be enough to stop them. Cell phones play an important role in the lives of youths; they use their phone for their social life and their jobs. Most people would agree that driving is also a significant part of life. Furthermore, people of all ages habitually disobey the speed limit laws; teens may not feel compelled to obey these new laws either. If new drivers chose to disobey the law, the technology of hands-free earpieces may make it difficult for law enforcement officials to spot drivers who are phoning. The real test of the effectiveness of these new laws will be when it actually takes effect on January 1, 2006.
The new legislation is intended to reduce the number of phone-related accidents among new drivers. Many states are passing new laws against using a cell-phone while driving, and although they are supported by recent research, they might be less effective than planned. In a changing world of technological advances, this solution may prove to be temporary; who knows what the future has in store for us?