Ending the Devastating Cycle of Distracted Driving: Change the Rules, Change the Result

by Jeffrey J. Kroll

What should you do when the same tactics do not work to prevent the greatest possible consequence? The definition of insanity is expecting a different result when the same conduct occurs – here, the cost of a life is that same, frustrating result.

You may think we are talking about COVID-19, but in this case, we are addressing the drivers on our roads, more importantly, distracted drivers. In 2020, 193 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in the state of Illinois alone. Of course, we may never know the true cost of life regarding distracted driving as most drivers will not admit to their lack of focus. These numbers continue to grow by roughly 12% each year.

Throughout our country, distracted driving has led to over 3,000 deaths in 2020 alone. That same year, almost half a million injuries occurred due to drivers not paying attention. That equals 10 deaths a day because drivers were doing something simple yet distracting like taking a bite of a sandwich or seeking the perfect radio station for their drive. Maybe they were breaking up a fight between children in the backseat or, most often, texting and checking their phone.

Police report that 15% of all motor vehicle accidents list distracted driving as a culprit that involves 556 non-passengers, including bicyclists and pedestrians in Illinois. The state is well known for having strict laws banning the use of texting and other phone-related activities. However, the statistics bear noting that even in the face of such rules and regulations, it is not working. The death toll continues to climb.

We return to our initial premises. So, what do we do when something is not working? What is behind these gruesome and life-altering statistics? Well, research has shown that teen drivers are more likely than any other age group to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction was a factor. The number of teens in the car at any given time contributes to the danger of the driver and others on the road. By limiting the number of teens in the car, we can perhaps reduce these numbers and limit senseless deaths. These teen years are crucial for learning to pay attention to everything that goes on behind the wheel of a car.

And the fact remains, that Illinois is one of 19 states with a ban on handheld devices. Yet, holding a phone in your hand is certainly not the only way to drive distracted. Sometimes it is not the hands but the mind we need to worry about. Unfortunately, at times, I have seen the impact of teens not having the attention span or brain function to assure this level of safety. Therefore, yes, we need more rules. Albeit different ones.