Guest Contributor Amy Kelly

Our teenagers text all the time. When they’re eating breakfast, they’re texting. When they’re walking down the hallways at school, they’re texting. And when they should be interacting with friends and family outside their bedroom, they’re texting them instead.

It all started when teenagers started receiving cell phones from their parents in order for parents to reach their teens while they were out with friends or on their way to work. Then text messaging became all the rage, and everyone is fighting this prime form of communication between teenagers and their friends. But when it comes to banning text messaging while driving, are the recent anti-texting laws really making a difference?

A number of studies in the past have shown that distracted drivers–specifically those using a hand-held cell phone to talk or text–are the cause of many major accidents every year in America. These statistics caught the eyes of lawmakers and before you knew it, states around the country were putting in place anti-texting laws. Whether the ban was on the use of hand-held cell phones, text messaging on cell phones, or the use of cell phones at all in your vehicle, there have been bans and laws put into place to some extent in almost all states within the US.  But are they working?

Recent studies are showing that no, they are not. Studies done by both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute have shown results that are less than promising. Which one might find baffling–if distracted drivers were causing a brunt of the accidents on the roadways, then wouldn’t removing distractions such as cell phones cause a decline in roadway accidents and fatalities?  Not necessarily, and the statistics show that this is in fact not the methodology that is being used. The increase in distracted driving accidents–especially those between the ages of 17 and 24, are because of one thing: non-compliance.

Sure, there’s a law in place, but many teenagers are not fully understanding the consequences of texting and driving and are ignoring these laws altogether. Instead of putting down the cell phone and waiting until they are their destination, they will still pick up their phone and text regardless of the laws in place. So then the next question becomes, how do we truly enforce anti-texting laws?

One option is to ensure that it is a primary offense in all states.  This means that you can be pulled over if seen using your cell phone in a car, and not having to be pulled over for another violation instead. Second, increasing the penalty for not complying with the law is another consideration for lawmakers to decide. If the laws were tougher and the tickets were more expensive, would teenagers start to comply with the anti-texting laws?

It’s hard to say. Which is why further studies may need to be done to determine whether stricter laws need to be made to ensure that noncompliance doesn’t happen. Because we’ve all seen the dangers of texting while driving, and the last thing we need is to be experiencing the after-effects with our own children texting behind the wheel.

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