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Distracted Driving

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Distracted Driving in Tennessee
Cellular devices have become a natural part of everyday life. People wake up check their texts, emails, Facebook, twitter and even the weather with the touch of a button. New generation smartphones are now constantly glued to every hand or head that passes by. The result of this obsession is the ongoing issue of distracted driving. This issue started when drivers would get constant phone calls while on the road causing them to lose focus on their surroundings. Now texting, emailing, messaging and status updating has added a new concern to the issue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2008, driver distraction was the cause of 16 percent of all fatal crashes resulting in 5,800 deaths and 21 percent of all crashes resulting in an injury causing 515,000 wounded people. (Brian 2).Distracted driving has become a huge issue not only nationwide but specifically in Knoxville, Tennessee alone. Motor vehicle accidents and deaths have been increasing in the city over the years as cell phones have become more popular. Personally, I believe distracted driving is wrong. Staying focused on the road at all times is a sure way to save thousands of lives now and in the future. There need to be stricter penalties to support the laws that are currently in place.
Nationally, studies are taking place to show people how dangerous distracted driving really can be while at the same time educating them so they can understand the risks. In a 2008 study conducted by the Clemson University Psychology Department, researchers found that text messaging while driving is more dangerous than talking on the phone alone. Using a simulated test, they found motorists who are texting and using iPods while driving leave their lanes at least 10 percent more often than other drivers (Crump 4). In a 2009 study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researchers found that collisions are 20 times greater when drivers were texting while driving. The study found that texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, long enough to blindly travel the length of a football field at 55 mph (Crump 3). These results support what is shown to be true, not only on a national but a local level as well.
Looking at Tennessee as a whole, the law currently states, bus operators with passengers aboard, drivers with learner’s permits and divers that hold intermediate licenses are prohibited from using cell phones while driving. This law does not include hands free devices. Along with phone calls, text messaging is prohibited to everyone while operating a motor vehicle. If drivers are caught, there is a 50 dollar fine along with 10 dollars in court fees (Tennessee texting laws 1). Since this punishment is so miniscule drivers often dismiss the meaning of the citation, pay the fine and continue on with their dangerous behaviors. In 2009, the year the texting law took effect, 54 citations were handed out over a six month period. While the following year, in 2010 the Tennessee highway patrol issued 171 tickets for texting and driving. Officers reported more than half of these citations happening in and around the major cities of Tennessee including Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville (Brian 1).
On a smaller scale, looking at the city of Knoxville, distracted driving has become quite a concern for the people residing in and around the city limits. The University of Tennessee is located in the center of the metropolitan downtown area and the surrounding suburbs. Knoxville is home to nearly 21,000 undergrad students. Being so close to such a populated area students are able to travel all over the city which in turn contributes to the cities issue of distracted driving. Teens and young adults have grown up with the concept of multitasking, therefore making them the target age group contributing to the majority of citations and accidents that are caused by texting or talking on a cellular device. According to the American Automobile Association, nearly 50 percent of teens admit to texting while driving (Brian 1). An online survey of 1,999 teens between the ages of 17-20 was conducted and found that 84 percent were aware that distracted-driving behaviors increase their crash risk; yet 86 percent have still engaged in those behaviors. With results like this contributing to the problem of distracted driving, they are also contributing to the city of Knoxville’s increasing accident rate. Auto driving statistics from 2010 show an increase in traffic fatalities for Knoxville. State representatives estimate that automobile accidents were responsible for more than 400 deaths last year. Out of these 400 deaths, officials note that the majority of fatalities come from the city’s biggest problem area, distracted driving.
On the other hand, the opposing side can argue that messaging or talking on the phone while driving is equivalent to having a conversation with someone in the passenger seat. The same amount of distraction can be found in both situations. Furthermore, since texting and driving is such a hard offense to detect officers have a hard time writing citations for text messaging with a cellular device. It is hard to decipher if someone is sending a text or dialing a phone number, because of this issue police are having a harder time punishing those in the wrong. It can also be difficult to tell if a form of distracted driving was the cause of an injury or fatality in a car accident.
No one believes it will happen to them until it is too late. Students have the power to make a difference; one change in their practices can influence others to do the same. Six graduate students at the University of Tennessee are connecting with the American Automobile Association to come up with a way to pass a bill that will ban all forms of electronic communication while driving in the state (Crump 1). Students are also taking part in driver safety programs for children so they can learn at an early age to drive with no distractions. Along with the education provided, students also partake in a driver simulation to show just how dangerous distracted driving can be (Kropff 1). With programs like these we can protect our future generations and prevent distracted driving fatalities in the future.
If our population is educated about distracted driving they will be less likely to contribute to the problem. Acknowledging that there is an issue is the first step to success, as well as setting a good example. The distracted driving law needs to be reevaluated and enforced to the fullest. If there are severe consequences for people’s actions only then will we see a change in people’s behavior. Until then people will continue to get away with a crime that could potentially destroy innocent lives. The dangers of distracted driving are very clear, people need to put down the phones and pick up their alertness.

Works Cited
Brian, Greg. "Laws against talking on the phone while driving ." ehow. msn, Fall 2011. Web. 20 Oct.2011.
Crump, Morgan. "Texting while driving, a hazard on college campuses." Daily Toreador. Daily Toreador, 6 Sept.2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2011.
Kropff, Allison. "Students learn dangers of distracted driving ." volunteer tv . local 8 , 17 Mar.2011. Web. 31 Oct. 2011.
N/A, N/A. "Tennessee: Cell phone laws, legislation." Hands free info. HFI, 13 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.

Cited: Brian, Greg. "Laws against talking on the phone while driving ." ehow. msn, Fall 2011. Web. 20 Oct.2011. Crump, Morgan. "Texting while driving, a hazard on college campuses." Daily Toreador. Daily Toreador, 6 Sept.2011. Web. 27 Oct. 2011. Kropff, Allison. "Students learn dangers of distracted driving ." volunteer tv . local 8 , 17 Mar.2011. Web. 31 Oct. 2011. N/A, N/A. "Tennessee: Cell phone laws, legislation." Hands free info. HFI, 13 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2011.

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