Distracted driving continues to be a hot topic. Fatalities have increased 14% over the last two years. This is the largest increase the United States has seen in the past 50 years. Distracted driving continues to be a major contributor to these accidents. As technology continues to advance, there are more and more ways for people to become distracted.
While education campaigns are helpful, they are not the full solution to the problem, and not the only measure states are taking to combat cellphone use while driving. In an effort to combat the increases in fatalities, many states are opting to strengthen their distracted driving laws. Around the country, states are going beyond simple laws prohibiting texting and driving.
Let’s take a look at some of the latest developments in 2017:
- Primary offense – 43 states and the District of Columbia have made distracted driving a primary offense, meaning law enforcement doesn’t need to witness any other offenses to pull you over. Iowa just recently joined this group. Texas Governor Abbot has a bill on his desk that would take this step, though it’s unclear if he’ll sign it.
- Definition of distracted driving – Washington and Arkansas have recently upgraded their definition to include practices like using Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Netflix behind the wheel.
- Increased fines – Many states are increasing their fines for distracted driving, with Arkansas, District of Columbia, North Dakota and Washington adding new legislation. In some states, if the texting contributes to a crash, the ordinary fines will be increase or even doubled. One of the highest penalties is in Arkansas, where a first offense will cost $250, and repeat offenses carry a $500 fine. The pending Texas legislation also has increased penalties. Colorado’s pending legislation would increase texting fines from $50 to $300.
- Focus on young drivers – New laws focus on increasing distracted driving awareness in driver education courses (Oklahoma), banned all wireless communication device usage while driving for teens with learner’s permits (Arizona), and prohibiting the use of handheld devices in school zones (Tennessee and Vermont, with Vermont pending signature).
- Increasing public awareness – Virginia is increasing their education initiative DRIVE SMART Virginia. Drivers will be able to contribute to a fund to support the initiative that will be collected at tolls using the EZ Pass system. These funds will go toward campaigns such as safe driving, distracted driving, and others.
Safer driving seems to be a top priority all over the country. Decreasing the number of accidents and fatalities on the road should be something we all work together to achieve.
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