The distraction from using a cellphone, not necessarily a smartphone, is being blamed at least in part for causing a 8.1% increase in deaths occurring in North American traffic incidents in the first half of 2015. During this time, over sixteen thousand people lost their lives by a car accident and the increase is more than twice that compared with the increase in vehicles on the road (which is fueled, if you will forgive the pun, by lower fuel costs). America’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has explained that it is too early to determine how many deaths may be directly attributed to cellphone use, but Mark Roseland, the NHTSA agency head, said this on the matter: “The increase in smartphones in our hands is so significant, there’s no question that has to play some role. But we don’t have enough information yet to determine how big a role.”
Many states record comprehensive information about collisions, especially when there is a serious injury or even death. However, driving and operating a mobile phone – not necessarily a smartphone – is considered to be somewhere from “less safe than normal” through to “dangerous,” depending on the location. In North America, fourteen states prohibit all drivers from using hand held cellular ‘phones whilst driving and all fourteen of these are primary enforcement laws. This means that the driver may be given a ticket for using a handheld ‘phone without any other traffic offense taking place. Whilst no states ban all ‘phone use, thirty nine states ban their use by a novice driver and twenty one ban the use by school bus drivers. Texting is banned in most states whilst driving and all apart from five, give texting at the wheel primary enforcement. Of the four that allow texting in some respect, two ban it for novice drivers and one bans school bus drivers from the activity. Two states – Arkansas and Texas – ban cell ‘phone use through a school zone, with Arkansas also banning use through a construction zone. The gallery at the bottom of this article details the current laws in all fifty states.
The NHTSA’s stance is simple: Mark Rosekind believes laws should be put in place to ban the use of a ‘phone when driving. We have seen evidence that peoples’ mindset is changing, for example in Canada, younger drivers are starting to text less behind the wheel. And over time, more and more states are passing laws to ban the use of cell ‘phones or other electronic devices owing to their greater distraction. This represents something of a legislative challenge for lawmakers: is Android Auto a distraction or a benefit to drivers behind the wheel?