With vehicle-related bike and pedestrian deaths numbering in the thousands annually, desperately needed attention was focused on the profoundly stupid and dangerous practice of removing hands and eyes from the act of driving a vehicle at speed to send emojis and check the weather.
This month in Minnesota, more than 300 agencies doled out 972 citations and over $48,000 in fines from April 11-17 in a statewide push to halt the rising death toll from texting while driving.
Seventy-four people were killed and 174 injured as a result of distracted driving in the state last year. According to federal statistics, in 2014 over 431,000 people were injured and 3,179 killed nationwide as a result of performing activities other than driving while at the wheel.
The astounding number of citations during the week-long crackdown, nearly 140 per day, uncovers the necessity of harsher penalties and stricter enforcement of texting and driving laws.
Presently, Minnesota issues a $50 ticket for a first offense. By comparison, Alaska issues a $10,000 fine and up to a year in jail for a single offense, while California will only charge $20 for the privilege of texting and driving.
The increased enforcement was organized by The Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, which performed a similar six-day crackdown last year to the tune of 909 citations.
National Legislation Needed
While shedding light on the extraordinary danger and prevalence of texting while driving is welcomed, it also begs the question why a mere week of heightened awareness is the response to what amounts to a fatal epidemic.
The need for a national standard to dissuade the use of phones while attempting to drive is clear, much the way drinking and driving has been outlawed and shunned on a macro scale.
Federal law mandates laws around drunk driving. Currently, there is no federal ban on the use of cellular phones while operating a motor vehicle. We hope to see that change.