Sarah Flagg of The Missourian examines the law and psychology of drivers who text message. According to the National Safety Counsel, “Distracted driving contributes to hundreds of thousands of injuries and deaths each year.”
Driving while texting is a particularly common phenomenon among younger persons, with one estimate indicating that “nearly half of ages 18 to 24 admitted texting while driving at least occasionally, as compared to less than five percent of those ages 45 and older.”
We excerpt Flagg’s piece below.
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Missouri Rep. Joe Smith, R.-St. Charles, pre-filed a bill earlier this month that would create the state’s first restrictions on cell phone use while driving, unless the phone is equipped with a hands-free device.
The bill would ban cell phone use in a motor vehicle on public property. It would apply to all publicly maintained roads, streets and highways.
The bill, which Smith said he has introduced the past three years in a row, includes a ban on text messaging behind the wheel. If passed, it would take effect in August.
According to research by a British transportation agency, texting is more dangerous than simply talking on the phone in a car. It is even more hazardous than drinking and driving.
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While restrictions on cell phone use in cars have been proposed or enacted in 40 states, many states are still deciding how to incorporate texting into pieces of legislation.
In May 2007, Washington became the first state to ban texting and driving, and six others have followed, including California, where a train engineer’s inattention to a signal while texting was cited in the crash of a commuter train that killed 25.
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Jamie Arndt, an MU social psychology professor, cites two reasons people engage in behavior they know is dangerous.
First, there’s the attitude of “it won’t happen to me,” he said. “They think the danger and accidents will happen, but they themselves are immune.”
Priorities also affect decision making, particularly when connecting with friends and family may be a top concern.
“Those are powerful things that take priority of assessing proper risk management,” he said.
For the rest of the story, click here. For other Situationist posts on products, click here and, for previous Situationist posts about driving, see “The Situational Power of Anonymity,” “The Link Between Sideline Rage and Road Rage,” “Alone Together – The Commuter’s Situation,” “Do Car Bumper Stickers Signal Driver Aggression?,” and “Car Bonding.”