A new Arizona bill could ban Valley teens from using their cell phones while driving, or more cleverly put, “driving while inTEXTicated.” Eighty two percent of teens ages 16 and 17 own a cell phone, while 52% of them admit to using their cell phone while driving and 34% say that they have texted while driving. Supporters of this bill say that legally banning new drivers from using their cell phone while driving will protect our Valley teens and teach them a valuable life lesson: concentrate on driving. Three major concerns are addressed by the bill as it aims to protect our teens and keep our roads safer:
1. Teen are the least experienced drivers and do not need any distractions behind the wheel.
There is a reason that Arizona law has created a regulatory process for drivers to earn their licenses- it creates an opportunity and a controlled environment for new drivers to gain experience and learn the rules of the road. The famous Spiderman movie quote, “With great power comes great responsibility,” is completely applicable in this situation. Teenagers are just learning the rules of the road and the power that their vehicle and freedom possess, yet they must be responsible with that power and all that it entails. In order to truly learn safe driving skills, a teen must be fully aware of what is around them and not distracted by their cell phones. For example, a safe driving distance is at least 500 feet, or three car lengths, between you and the car in front of you, yet an inexperienced driver has not quite figured out the visual measurement or how to quickly gauge that distance; one glance at their phone can turn that “safe” zone into a dangerous accident. On average, the minimal amount of time a driver takes away from the road while texting and driving is 5 seconds… if you are driving at 55 MPH, this is equivalent to driving the length of a football field. A lot can happen in that five seconds, which is why it is imperative for new drivers to fully focus on driving and the other vehicles on the road.
2. Teens are the most tech savvy generation and use their phones more than any other age group.
Teens text, email, use apps, take pictures, make calls, tweet and post to Facebook all from their phones- their tiny device holds their entire social world in the palm of their hands. If a teen is texting while driving, they are 23 times more likely to be in an accident, if they are dialing their phone they are 2.8 times more at risk for an accident, talking or listening on their phones while driving puts teens 1.3 times more at risk for an accident and even if they are only reaching for their device, they are 1.4 times more likely to be in a car accident.
3. Teens are less likely to think about the long-term consequences of a car accident.
Teenagers have a tendency to think that they are invincible; therefore they are less likely to think about the serious consequences of being involved in a car accident, or even worse, if they are the cause of a serious car accident and hurt someone else. This “superhuman” mentality is why it is important that teens are constantly reminded, educated and made aware of the consequences of using their phone while driving- which is the main goal of this bill. Laws are based on the simple ideology of mental conditioning and behavioral change- simply put, laws are linked to the famous psychology experiment, Pavlov’s dog.
If we implement laws that remind our drivers not to use their phones while driving, they will be conditioned to not “drive while inTEXTicated” throughout their lives, ultimately making our roads safer.
Those against the bill say that the bill is placing too many restrictions on drivers and unnecessarily punishing teens, yet the goal of bringing claims against drivers that break the rules of the roads is to make our roads safer for everyone. The bill puts an extra burden on the least experienced drivers and holds them accountable for their actions and the possible harm that they put all drivers in when they use their phones behind the wheel. The young drivers that the bill targets are the most tech savvy, they are the least likely to think long term consequences of dividing their attention, and they are the drivers that need the most concentration on the roadway obstacles, therefore this bill would greatly protect the public while adding little inconvenience to the general population.
Currently, the use of cell phones is banned only in certain cities in Arizona and in the case of an accident cell phone usage must be proved as the cause of the wreck in order to hold the motorist responsible for the accident. If the bill passes, the fact that the youth was on the cell phone while driving would be an argument for the youth’s liability of the wreck. The records of the cell phone should be available during any claim process.
To read the bill in its entirety, visit http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/50leg/2r/bills/sb1056s.pdf.
Tommy Richardson is an attorney with Friedl Richardson Trial Lawyers, a Phoenix-based personal injury law firm founded in 1997 with a mission to make the community safer by helping people injured due to other’s breaking the rules.