Age doesn’t improve safety in distracted driving

Last updated: 01-24-2020

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Age doesn’t improve safety in distracted driving

Taking a peak at a cellphone while driving is hardly a rare occurrence, but the dangers of splitting our attention while behind the wheel have come into sharp focus in recent years, with Michigan reporting around 19,000 crashes and 77 fatalities in 2019 involving distracted driving.

However, despite Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s call for a universal hands-free law 11 months ago, Michigan still has not joined the 21 states in the nation that bar all motorists from using hand-held phones while driving, according to a recent Associated Press report.

While Whitmer has indicated she supports the law for drivers of all ages, the Republican-led Legislature “appears much less open to including adults,” AP reports.

The bill pending in Michigan’s Legislature would prohibit those under 18 from using a phone while driving, except in case of emergencies. Those who have a learner’s or intermediate permit are currently barred from using a phone while driving.

However, as currently written, adults would be exempt from the law.

“That’s a step in the right direction,” the sponsor, Democratic Rep. Mari Manoogian of Birmingham, said of the measure advancing in the AP article. “But we absolutely do need to expand this legislation to include everyone. It will make it easier for law enforcement to enforce this law. It will make our drivers safer regardless of age.”

At the Journal, we agree with Manoogian: the bill brings us closer to where we need to be, but without including adults 18 and older, it lacks teeth.

For one, limiting the ban to those under 18 seems challenging from a enforcement point of view, as it’s not always easy to tell the difference between a 17-year-old driver who passes by while chatting on their cellphone and an 18- or 19-year-old who does the same.

Furthermore, a study published in Preventative Medicine Reports in 2016 shows nearly 60% of the 1,200 adult drivers surveyed admitted to at least one cellphone-related distraction while driving in the past 30 days. The same study showed the number of crashes a person reported increased with the amount of cellphone-related distracted driving.

As much as many people would like to think there’s a certain level of experience and maturity that makes it acceptable or safe to use a cellphone while driving, that’s simply not the case: distracted driving is dangerous at any age.

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