Alabama enacted a texting law this year, the 38th state to adopt some kind of ban against cellphone use or texting while driving. Drivers now face a fine if they engage in texting, instant messaging or e-mailing behind the wheel.
The data behind the law is disturbing. According to the Center for Advanced Public Safety, distracted driving is linked to more than 3,000 fatal crashes a year nationwide; in Alabama, the number is somewhere between 125 and 250. As many as 8,000 people are injured in this state every year in distracted driving accidents.
Lawmakers and safety advocates hope that the law will save lives and reduce the number of injuries caused when drivers take their eyes off the road to text. The law can only go so far, though, especially with teens, because most teens learn to drive not from the rule books but -- by instruction or by example -- from their parents.
Two recent studies showed that teens are influenced by the way their parents use cellphones while driving. Unfortunately, the influence isn't always a good one, because teens tend to think their parents are worse rule breakers than they actually are. For example, 85 percent of teens said their parents are often distracted by passenger issues while driving; asked the same question, 70 percent of their parents said that happened.
Opinions about using electronic devices to listen to music, reading or writing directions while driving and searching for something while driving were similarly skewed. The results are especially discomfiting knowing that control questions indicated that kids were more likely to mimic their parents' bad driving behaviors than their good ones.
Interestingly, parents thought their teens were safer drivers than they actually were. While 26 percent of teens said they read or sent a text at least once per car ride, only 1 percent of their parents thought they did.
It will be a while before we know the effect of Alabama's texting ban on the number of accidents and the number of people injured or killed as a result of texting and driving. These studies give us evidence now that some of those statistics can change if parents model good driving behavior, too.
Source: Online Auto Insurance News, "Study: Teens Using Parents' Habits to Justify Distracted Driving," John Pirro, Nov. 29, 2012
We work with clients in the Huntsville, Alabama, area who have been injured or who have lost a loved one in an accident caused by a distracted driver. If you are interested in learning more about our practice, please visit our website's car accidents page.
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