In Kentucky, if you are caught texting and driving behind the wheel, you will be stopped and fined $25 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. For teens under eighteen it is against the law to use a cell phone in any way while behind the wheel. (KRS 189.292). But with distracted driving statistics alarmingly high, one asks why fines are so small and how strict is enforcement.
In 2016, the Kentucky State Police reported that there were 59,400 crashes related to distracted driving. These crashes resulted in 14,000 injuries and 192 fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that driver distraction was the leading factor in most crashes. So are we doing enough?
Europe's laws regarding the use of hand held communication devices behind the wheel are much stricter than those in the United States. In the United Kingdom, distracted driving fines are 200 pounds and six points against a driver's license. Teenagers in the UK may be at risk of losing their license after one offense. Adults face a court appearance after two offenses.
Most European Union countries prohibit the use of hand held electronic devices while driving. Austria even bans the use of hand held communication devices for bicyclists. Local police in Finland can suspend a driver's license if a cell phone violation is committed three times in a single year or four times over two years. Even with these tough laws, drivers continue to drive distracted. Good Mobile Phones performed a survey that found a majority of British drivers used cell phones without the required hands-free kit even with strict laws in place. (European Cell Phone, Texting Roundup).
At the end of the day, the question remains, "How do we save lives by curbing distracted driving?" The laws by themselves are not enough. Enforcement is difficult and obedience is slim. Together we must emphasize the dangers of distracted driving to teens even before they start driving. Join me in reaching out to the next generation of drivers. Be an example by driving distraction free, talk to your teenagers about the hazards of distracted driving, and encourage them to sign the pledge not to text and drive.