Laws dictate a large portion of how we live our lives, and it isn’t any different when it comes to driving. They are meant to protect us from the unknowing dangers out there and to maintain a stable and safe environment. As distracted driving laws fall under the jurisdiction of the individual states, the laws may vary across the nation. The Shreya Dixit Foundation has always been an advocate of laws promoting safe driving, such as the Hands-Free Law in Minnesota which took effect on August 1st, 2019. We believe that laws play a crucial role in preventing distracted driving by even further steering people towards distraction-free driving habits and educating them of safe driving practices. This new law forbids the driver to hold a phone in hand for video calling, gaming, looking at videos or photos stored on the phone, using non-navigation apps, reading texts and scrolling or typing on the phone unless in an emergency situation. In the first 5 months after the law was enacted, 9,727 drivers received citations for violating the law which denotes how severe the problem initially was.
The Hands-Free Law has been quite effective in a lot of states around the USA. In 12 of 15 states with hands-free laws, traffic fatalities have decreased by an average of 15 percent.1 The law encourages people to remove one of the biggest distractions and keep their eyes primarily on the street. Furthermore, hands-free cell phone usage negates the recovery time that the driver needs to refocus on the street from using their phone. 48 out of the 50 states ban texting for all drivers and 24 of them now prohibit all drivers from using a hand-held mobile device while driving. In California, the cellphone ban showed a major improvement when the usage of hand-held devices while driving dropped from 7.6 percent in 2016 to 3.58 percent in 2017 after the law was enacted.
In some states, distracted driving is more of an issue than in others. Currently, New Mexico has the most distracted driving cases in the United States with a 26.41% fatality rate between the years 2013 to 2017, and they currently don’t have any laws on hand-held cellphone bans. This demonstrates that the absence of appropriate distracted driving laws is correlated to high fatality rates in distracted driving cases. States with the more concrete distracted driving laws are approaching lower numbers of cases. A new study has shown that texting and hand-held cellphone bans for all drivers are associated with the greatest mortality reductions among teen drivers.3 At the end of the day, it’s vital to be aware of the laws within the state that you live in. Moreover, it should still be reminded that Hands-free is not necessarily Distraction-free; therefore, drivers should always remain cautious on the road by mitigating all potential distractions.
This article was written by Rachael Chowdhury, Journalism Committee Intern
- “Hand-Free Law.” Office of Traffic Safety, Minnesota Department of Public Safety, dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/hands-free/Pages/default.aspx.
- Bloch, Samantha. “Traffic Safety Review: States Focus on Distracted Driving.” National Conference of State Legislature, 15 Oct. 2020, www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/traffic-safety-review-states-focus-on-distracted-driving.aspx.
- Kitch, Ann. “State and Federal Efforts to Reduce Distracted Driving.” National Conference of State Legislature, June 2018, www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/state-and-federal-efforts-to-reduce-distracted-driving.aspx.
- Johnson, Adam. “Most Distracted Driving States.” QuoteWizard, Lending Tree, 29 Jan. 2020, quotewizard.com/news/posts/states-with-the-most-distracted-drivers.