MO novice-only texting and driving ban overlooks most frequent offenders

Adult drivers may be more likely to text or otherwise use their phones than teens, which means novice cellphone bans may not adequately protect drivers.

When most people in Lee's Summit think of drivers who text or engage in other bad habits, they most likely think of teenagers, who may make risky decisions due to inexperience or judgmental errors. However, research suggests that texting and other distracted behaviors may even be more common among adults. This means that Missouri's ban on texting while driving, which only applies to drivers younger than 21, may leave motorists in serious danger of distracted driving accidents.

Adults and texting

According to CNN, cellphone company AT&T has conducted surveys that suggest texting is more common among older drivers than teenagers. AT&T surveyed 1,200 teens in 2012 and 1,011 adult drivers in 2013. The surveys indicated that 49 percent of adults texted while driving, while 43 percent of teenagers texted while driving.

These differences could be explained in part by the chronological gap between the two surveys; texting may have been slightly less common among both teenagers and adults in 2012, when only teenagers were surveyed, compared to 2013, when only adults were surveyed. However, other surveys that simultaneously include adults and teens suggest that older drivers are more inclined to general phone use while driving.

Other forms of distraction

According to CBS News, a 2013 report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed information from 2,325 people with current driver's licenses. AAA reported that phone use was most common among people between ages 25 and 39, with 82 percent - or more than 4 out of 5 - of these drivers admitting to the behavior. Slightly more than half of the drivers in this age group who admitted to phone use stated that it was a frequent habit.

Drivers between ages 19 and 24 or ages 40 and 59 had the next highest rates of cellphone use, with 72 percent admitting to it. In comparison, 58 percent of teens reported using their cellphones while driving. The only drivers with lower rates of cellphone use than teenagers were drivers over the age of 60.

A growing problem

Research also indicates that texting while driving is becoming more common among drivers, regardless of age. According to CNN, the AT&T survey results released in 2013 also shared the following figures:

  • Almost all of the people surveyed - specifically, 98 percent of respondents - stated they know texting and driving is risky. This means a large proportion of people who admit to texting know that they are risking accidents or serious injuries.
  • Six out of ten survey respondents stated they never texted while driving three years before the survey. Compared to the rates of texting while driving reported during the survey, this suggests an increase in the behavior.
  • For four out of ten survey respondents, texting while driving represented a regular routine, rather than a lapse in judgment.

These findings suggest that stronger laws may be necessary to deter drivers of all ages, rather than just novice drivers, from texting and engaging in other distractions while behind the wheel.

In the absence of these laws, distracted driving accidents may harm many innocent drivers. After one of these accidents, it is essential for victims to meet with an attorney to discuss seeking compensation for any injuries.

Keywords: distracted, driving, accident, injury, texting