Avoid The Text To Avoid The Wreck
In nearly forty years in the automotive repair and body business, we at Da-Les Auto Body have learned a thing or two about the subject. One of the things we’ve learned is that most accidents are preventable. The State of California recognizes this as well. Because of this, the state legislature ratified a series of laws aimed at preventing distracted driving for 2014. One of the biggest targets of this body of laws is preventing teen drivers from texting while driving, one of the most preventable causes of accident injuries and fatalities. Here’s why the state takes this so seriously, and why we support the new laws!
Distracted Driving Is Dangerous Driving
The statistics are chilling: Texting while driving has become the leading killer of teens on the road, surpassing drunk driving. One study estimates that over 3,000 teen deaths and 300,000 teen injuries each year can be directly linked to texting while driving. Texting tends to become more popular as the driver ages, with only about 24% of 15-year-olds admitting to texting behind the wheel versus 58% of 18-year-olds.
One of the biggest reasons for this increase is that drivers get more confident as they grow older, leading to complacency. A driver may say, “I’ve been driving for X years and nothing’s happened. I’m a good driver. Nothing’s going to happen if I just tap out a quick ‘LOL’!” The reality, of course, is very different. According to the FCC, about 40% of people have been in a vehicle with a driver who was using a cell phone in an unsafe manner. Even worse, the odds of being in a crash increase 23 times while texting, which makes texting just as dangerous as drunk driving and more likely to cause an accident.
Because of this alarming trend, the State of California has passed a law stating that teen drivers may not read, write, or send texts while driving, even if they are using a hands-free device. The new law went into effect on January 1st, 2014, and is intended to prevent teen drivers from texting by imposing fines for violations. The fines begin at $20 for a first offense and $50 for each offense thereafter, but other factors may increase the penalties to steeper fines, jail time, loss of driver’s license, or all of the above.
However, the law also specifically provides that it is not considered a violation to use a cell phone behind the wheel in order to get emergency aid, such as summoning fire, police, medical first responders, or to contact an emergency room or healthcare provider. This is also considered a secondary offense, meaning that law enforcement officers may not stop a vehicle solely on suspicion of violating the no-texting law. There must be another primary violation, such as failure to yield, following too closely, or failing to give cyclists three feet of passing room, another law which was ratified for 2014.
Preventing Texting Starts At Home
Nearly everyone has read, answered, or sent a text while driving. The problem with this is that it’s not only dangerous, but it sets a very bad example for younger drivers. Young people may look at their parents, guardians, or other adults and think, “So-and-So texts all the time and nothing happens! I can do that too!” This kind of thinking, combined with the typical youthful belief in one’s own immortality, can lead to tragic consequences for the driver, the people in the driver’s car, and the general public.
The best way to avoid text-related accidents is simply not to engage in texting at any time while driving. There is no text message so urgent that it cannot wait for you to be in a safe and stationary location before it gets sent or received. This also applies to phone calls and checking email. If you absolutely must be in contact at all times, using a hands-free device can reduce, but not eliminate, the danger. However, the less you use your phone on the road, the less likely it is that you’ll find yourself in an accident.
As an auto body repair shop that prides itself on great customer service and excellent results, we at Da-Les hope you’ll come to us if you find yourself in need of car repairs. Of course, we also hope you’ll never need our services because you or your teen was engaged in unsafe behavior behind the wheel. Texting while driving costs thousands of lives and billions of dollars in damages every year, and is the single most preventable cause of accidents, injuries and death while driving. We’d rather see you and your family safe and healthy than see you in our shop. Please be safe and ask yourself if that next text is worth dying for.