Texting and driving refers to the act of receiving, reading and sending text messages while operating a motor vehicle, which is a hazardous practice that causes many fatalities. The act is so dangerous that it has been outlawed in some states in the United States. The habit is most common among adolescents and young people, even though older individuals also do it. The texting and driving debate has attracted two sides, both of which present claims as to whether implementing regulations will interfere with individual freedom. There are numerous dangers of texting while driving, and so, it is necessary for the society to mitigate the problem and reduce the many cases of mortality reported. Regulations on texting and driving will not interfere with individual freedom because the hazardous act is not protected by the First Amendment and they would enhance public safety according to the concept of “police power.”
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Regulations and Personal Freedom
Currently, no nation in the world has illegalized texting while driving. However, motorists who are accused of causing accidents because of texting while driving are punished severely. In the United States, a number of states have enacted laws to illegalize the act and provided recommendations regarding alternative means of communication such as the hands-free use of wireless phones (Chase, 2014). For instance, in the state of Maryland, laws were passed that prohibit texting and the use of mobile phones while driving. Regardless of the laws’ implementation, people are reluctant to follow them and continue to endanger the lives of other motorists. The right to life is a moral principle that suggests that every human being has a right to live and should not be killed by another person (Houghton, 2014). Implementing and enforcing regulations to curb texting while driving is one of the ways to protect the human right to life.
Implementing regulations will aid in the reduction of accidents and deaths that have been on the rise in the past decade due to advancements in mobile technology. Texting and driving is very dangerous because it distracts drivers by compromising the visual, mental, and cognitive aspects of concentration (Chase, 2014). When a driver is engaged in a texting conversation, it is easy to get distracted and endanger the lives of other motorists. The problem has been intensified by the emergence of smartphones that have more distracting features such as email and social media applications (Chase, 2014). The increase in texting while driving necessitates the implementation of regulations to curb the habit and protect the lives of motorists on the roads (Trevino, 2014). In many states, the penalties for driving while texting include hefty fines, prison time, license suspension, and increased insurance rates. The argument that regulations interfere with individual freedom ignores the numerous dangers of texting and driving and their effects on public welfare.
Texting and driving is a personal choice that drivers have the freedom to make. However, it becomes unlawful if they interfere with the rights of other motorists while doing it. The high numbers of deaths are proof that texting while driving is a dangerous action that interferes with the right of motorists to use roads safely (Houghton, 2014). Government statistics show that the number of deaths caused by texting and driving is very high. According to the National Safety Council, more than 330,000 accidents every year are caused by texting while driving while 25 percent of car accidents are caused by distracted drivers (Chase, 2014). Government regulations do not interfere with individual freedom because they are aimed at saving the lives of all road users. This argument is supported by 94% of motorists who agree that a ban on texting while driving is an effective step to mitigate the high mortality caused by accidents (Gardner & Anderson, 2016). The number of deaths is higher among teenagers. According to the National Safety Council, about 11 teenagers die every day from distracted driving due to texting. Regulations are necessary because even though teenagers are aware of the dangers of texting while driving, many of them do it anyway.
Counterargument and Rebuttal
Proponents of texting and driving argue that regulations are unconstitutional because they interfere with individual freedom. They believe that texting and driving is an action that is a freedom of choice that should be enjoyed by all drivers (Trevino, 2014). This argument is flawed because the regulations are placed on an act that has been proven to be hazardous. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has shown that the act causes numerous deaths and should be banned in order to protect public welfare (Falk, 2013). Using a telephone is protected under the First Amendment because it involves a right to personal privacy. However, doing it while driving and endangering the lives of other motorists is unlawful.
Police power is a term that refers to the authority possessed by state governments to pass laws that protect public safety, health, and morals (Gardner & Anderson, 2016). In that regard, it is constitutional for a government to pass laws that enhance public safety. The implementation of regulation to curb texting and driving would not interfere with individual freedom because it would enhance public safety (Houghton, 2014). The concept of police power has been used successfully in the past to impose regulations on speed limits, seat belts, and age restrictions on drivers (Gardner & Anderson, 2016). Moreover, it has been used to pass laws that require motorcyclists to use helmets and protective clothing. Regulations to curb texting and driving do not interfere with personal freedom because the act of texting while driving cannot be considered to be protected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects citizens’ rights of free speech, assembly, press, and religion (Falk, 2013). Texting while driving is not considered a right of free speech. No one can argue that distracted driving is a form of expression that is protected by the American constitution. The Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution gives certain powers to the states, and police power is exercised through the enactment and enforcement of laws.
The First Amendment of the United States constitution protects citizens’ right of freedom of speech. However, texting while driving cannot be considered as a right that is protected under the amendment. Statistics have shown that texting while driving causes distractions that endanger the lives of other motorists. Therefore, implementing regulations to curb the hazardous habit would be constitutional. Police power is a concept that defines the power possessed by governments to enact laws that enhance public safety. Imposing regulations on texting and driving would enhance public safety and therefore, it would not interfere with individual freedom. Implementing and enforcing regulations is an effective way of improving public safety and changing driver behavior.
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Chase, C. J. (2014). U.S. state and federal laws targeting distracted driving. Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, 58, 84-98.
Falk, G. (2013). Twelve inventions which changed America: The influence of technology on American culture. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.
Gardner, T. J., & Anderson, T. M. (2016). Criminal Law. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Houghton, S. C. (2014). Cell phones and distracted driving: Selected Research. New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Incorporated.
Trevino, A. J. (2014). Investigating Social Problems. New York, NY: SAGE Publications.