A December report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that distracted driving, specifically the use of handheld devices for texting and talking, was currently the single largest contributor of vehicle crashes in the United States, surpassing even crashes caused by driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The NHTSA used their report to add weight to their recommendation that all states pass comprehensive bans on the use of handheld devices by drivers. This recommendation has been met with support from some states, and much resistance by law makers in other states. So far, 36 states, including California, limit the use of handheld devices by drivers, while states such as Texas and Indiana continue to have no such laws on the books.
California was one of the first states to address the issue of the drivers using handheld devices when they were behind the wheel. When lawmakers first proposed the legislation some citizens spoke out, complaining the ban was an infringement on their personal liberties. Of course, all defensive drivers know that dying behind the wheel of your car because you didn’t see what was right in front of you is the biggest infringement on your personal liberty that there is.
The base fine for being caught driving with a phone in your hand is only $20, but this has been enough of a deterrent to save numerous lives. According to the COTS, between 70 and 80 lives were saved because of the ban, and about 5,000 injuries were prevented in the first two years of the law. The COTS study only looked at crashes where the driver was using a cellphone, so it is difficult to know whether there have been even more positive effects as a result, but for now, good news is still good news.