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Texting and Motor Vehicle Accidents Research Paper

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Introduction

One of the major causes of motor vehicle accidents is the prevalent habit of texting while driving. A 2012 report released on the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report website revealed that motor vehicle accidents accounted for 25% of the number of deaths reported in 2012 (Chen, Collins, Sieber, Pratt, Rodriguez-Acosta, Lincoln, Birdsey,…Robinson, 2015). A report released by CDC in 2013 revealed that the prevalence of texting while driving among drivers in the United States aged between 18 and 64 was 31% (Rebecca & Ann, 2013).

Motor vehicle accidents are a global public health problem that is responsible for approximately 1.3 million deaths every year (Ferdinand & Menachemi, 2014). The major risk factors for road accidents include driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to use helmets and protective gear, over speeding, and distraction due to activities such as texting. The number of deaths caused by texting while driving is very high and it is important for the federal and state governments to enact legislation to punish offenders.

Prevention, surveillance, and population-based interventions

Several interventions have been implemented to address the aforementioned problem. First, many companies have developed and implemented company policies that require drivers to refrain from using nay electronic device while driving (Hart, 2014). A zero-tolerance policy to distracted driving helps to keep the attention of the drivers on the road. Such policies contain provisions for drivers who feel compelled to respond to texts or make or receive calls while driving.

In such cases, they should pull their vehicle over, complete their activity, and get back on the road with full attention. Many companies have programs that remind employees that even when they are off duty, attentive driving is their responsibility (Hart, 2014). Staying focused on obeying traffic rules is an important aspect of reducing deaths that result from motor vehicle accidents.

Second, many states have enacted laws that restrict distracted driving. States with such legislation define texting as comprising activities such as reading, sending of electronic messages, and composition of messages using electronic devices (Ferdinand & Menachemi, 2014). In that regard, sending text messages, reading emails and instant messaging is prohibited. According to research, texting while driving causes accidents for several reasons including inappropriate lane positioning, impaired judgment, and longer reaction rates in case of emergencies (Ferdinand, Menachemi, Sen, Blackburn, & Morrisey, 2014).

Texting is riskier than talking on the phone because it requires the driver to direct all their attention on the phone. Studies have been conducted to evaluate the effect of texting laws in controlling traffic accidents. A study conducted by Highway Loss Data Institute revealed that texting laws increased the number of motor vehicle accidents (Ferdinand et. al, 2014). This increase was attributed to the tendency to hide mobile phones in order to avoid fines. Drivers began to focus more on their electronic devices after the laws were implemented. Another study that evaluated the effect of texting laws on traffic fatalities revealed that strong bans reduced the number of fatalities involving single-driver motor vehicles (Ferdinand et. al, 2014).

Another intervention to prevent traffic fatalities involves communication campaigns and education. Education programs mainly target drivers between the ages of 16 and 25. Novice drivers account for approximately 10% of the total number of motor vehicle accidents recorded annually (Klauer, Guo, Simmons-Morton, Ouimet, Lee, & Dingus, 2014). 14% of all accidents involving novice drivers cause injuries on drivers and passengers. These statistics are due to inexperience and distracted driving caused by activities such as texting or driving under the influence of alcohol. Research has revealed that novice drivers are subject to distracted driving more than experienced drivers (Klauer et. al, 2014).

Education programs are conducted in schools and communities in order to sensitize young drivers about the dangers and legal consequences of texting while driving. According to a study conducted by Klauer et. al (2014), the risk of crashing increased significantly among experienced drivers when they dialed their cell phones. In addition, the study revealed that the prevalence of distracted driving increased among novice drivers over sustained periods but did not show any significant increase among experienced drivers.

Creating awareness is another strategy that is used to reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents reported annually. A common cause of accidents among truck divers is failure to use seat belts. In a 2010 survey conducted by CDC, long-haul truck drivers (LHTD) increase the risk of injury and death by 14% by failing to use seat belts (Chen et. al, 2015). This problem can be addressed by implementing effective safety programs that create awareness among truck drivers regarding the risk of failing to use seat belts. On the other hand, manufacturers can develop better seat belts that fit appropriately. A study conducted by Chen et. al (2015), revealed that lack of seat belt law in certain jurisdictions was the reason behind the failure by truck drivers to use seat belts.

Surveillance of the problem involves analysis of data collected by different government agencies concerned with prevention of traffic fatalities. They include the National Safety Council, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board. For instance, the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration collects data from reported cases of traffic fatalities and analyzes it to compute different ratios and rates of various outcomes. For instance, in 2009, the agency released an annual report showing that distracted driving resulted in more than 450, 000 injuries and 5500deaths (Ferdinand & Menachemi, 2014).

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates all cases of traffic fatalities and provides recommendations that aim to address the public health problem (Hart, 2014). Surveillance of the problem is also conducted by individual researchers who are funded to conduct studies through government funding.

Affected population

Motor vehicle fatalities caused by texting while driving affect people of all ages especially those aged between 15 and 70. In an online survey involving drivers aged between 18 and 64 years, it merged that the prevalence of using an electronic device while driving was 69% in the United States (Rebecca & Ann, 2013). For instance, the prevalence of texting while driving was 31% among drivers in the United States (Rebecca & Ann, 2013). The impact of the problem on population health includes injuries, psychological disturbances, physical deformities, and death. Injuries and death are the major effects of texting while driving. Accidents affect people of all ages because passengers suffer injuries or die in crashes too.

Epidemiologic information

According to a report released by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving causes millions of deaths and injuries annually. For instance, in 2009, about 450, 000 people were injured and more than 5,500 were killed (Ferdinand & Menachemi, 2014). In these cases, distracted driving was one of the main causes. According to the National Safety Council, the use of cell phones while driving causes more than 1.6 million traffic fatalities annually. Texting while driving causes approximately 330, 000 injuries and about 25% of all motor vehicle deaths (Ferdinand & Menachemi, 2014).

The problem is on the increase because the number of death and injury cases increase every year. For instance, the number of crashes caused by distracted driving in 2011 was 3,360 while in 2012 they were 3,328 (Ferdinand & Menachemi, 2014). The fatality rate increased by 9%. The problem affects different states in varied degrees depending on presence of texting laws. For instance, in California, the number of drivers texting while driving decline significantly after the implementation of a law that banned texting. The mortality rate is higher among young people than it is among adults. This is primarily to higher levels of maturity in older people.

Weighted percentage of drivers who used cell phones while driving.
Figure 1: weighted percentage of drivers who used cell phones while driving (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2013).

Personal reactions to the public health problem

Texting while driving is a dangerous activity that many people engage in without considering the risks involved. The number of injuries and death caused by this habit is very high and poses serious implications on public health. The implications of texting while driving are severe because in many cases, the people travelling in the car with a distracted driver die or sustain serious injuries. Some injuries might be so serious that the victims lose certain physical abilities. The most important strategy that can be sued to address the problem is teaching people to embrace personal responsibility and accountability. States might enact texting laws and ban it.

However, the decision to either text or refrain from texting rests with the driver. Despite the existence of laws that ban texting while driving, many drivers still do it. Some studies have successfully shown that in many states, texting laws are ineffective with regard to reducing the number of fatalities caused by distracted driving. Therefore, I think the best approach to address the problem is to create awareness and ensure strict implementation of traffic laws.

Drivers need to be reminded through awareness campaigns that texting while driving is dangerous and irresponsible. Awareness programs should explore the issue further by showing drivers the effects of traffic accidents on their families and communities. Parents need to be role models to their children because children like to copy the behaviors and habits that their parents exhibit. Therefore, young people are likely to text while driving if they see their parents do it. Successful mitigation of the problem will reduce traffic accidents and address a public health issue that causes millions of deaths and injuries annually.

Conclusion

Motor vehicle traffic fatalities are one of the major causes of deaths in the United States. Distracted driving is one of the major causes of traffic accidents. It involves activities such as texting, driving under the influence of alcohol and illegal substances, talking on the phone, and operating electronic devices. Traffic accidents caused by texting are a public health problem that causes many deaths annually. Moreover, they have severe consequences on the health of involved populations.

Accidents cause deaths and injuries that have varying effects depending on their severity. It is important for the federal and state governments to enact stringent laws that ban texting in order to address the problem. On the other hand, effective enforcement of existing laws is necessary. It is also imperative for state governments to create awareness among novice and experienced drivers regarding the dangers and legal implications of distracted driving. Finally, the government could introduce technological gadgets to monitor the actions of drivers and discourage them from engaging in texting or any other form of distracted driving.

References

Chen, G. X., Collins, J. W., Sieber, K., Pratt, S. G., Rodriguez-Acosta, R. L., Lincoln, J. E., Birdsey, J.,…Robinson, C. F. Vital Signs: Seat Belt use Among Long-Haul Truck Drivers: United States, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 64(8), 217-221. Web.

Ferdinand, A. O., & Menachemi, N. (2014). Associations between Driving Performance and Engaging in Secondary Tasks: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Public Health, 104(30), 39-48. Web.

Ferdinand, A. O., Menachemi, N., Sen, B., Blackburn, J. L., & Morrisey, M. (2014) Laws and Other Tools for Protecting Public Health: Impact of Texting Laws on Motor Vehicular Fatalities in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 104(8), 1370-1377. Web.

Hart, C. (2014). . Web.

Klauer, S. G., Guo, F., Simmons-Morton, B. G., Ouimet, M. C., Lee, S. E., & Dingus, T. A. (2014). Distracted Driving and Risk of Road Crashes among Novice and Experienced Drivers. The New England Journal of Medicine, 370(1), 54-59. Web.

, 2011. Web.

Rebecca, B. N., & Ann, M. (2013). Mobile Devices use while Driving: United States and Seven European Countries, 2011. Atlanta: U. S. Centre for disease Control. Web.

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