Distracted Driving: Dangers, Regulations, and Individual Freedoms Issue
In many ways, the implementation of the individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms depends on those guarantees of a cultural, socio-economic, material, political, organizational, and legal nature that are established and provided by the state. Every citizen should be free as long as he does not harm others. Therefore, when not only the life of the person himself is under threat but also the lives of those around him, the restriction of individual freedom is permissible and justified.
It is well known that social stability and security are associated with the level of material and technical development of society, in which a person is more able to realize his social and creative potential. Their personal and social interests are not in conflict. A developed society is always able to spend more money on the social sphere and the work of those bodies that ensure the implementation of citizens’ rights. If personal rights are mainly aimed at ensuring freedom from unlawful interference by state power, then social rights are characterized by claims to ensure and implement the interests of the individual through state actions. The state is charged with additional requirements for implementing state social policy based on the resources that the state can allocate for these purposes.
In the modern world, human life is difficult to imagine without numerous portable electronic devices capable of promptly receiving and transmitting a wide variety of information. Today, humanity massively uses them everywhere, in any situation: at work, school, at home, and, of course, while driving. In this regard, it is quite apparent that the problem of legal regulation of individual actions of citizens who use such modern inventions arises. An example of such actions would be the use of mobile communications by a vehicle driver.
Actions that can divert the driver’s attention from vehicle control systems include talking on the phone without a special headset, texting, and using various computer programs (instant messengers, games, and many others). According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, “More than 38,000 people die every year in crashes on U.S. roadways. The U.S. traffic fatality rate is 12.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. An additional 4.4 million are injured seriously enough to require medical attention. Road crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people aged 1-54” (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2020). The figures given can be related to the victims of a serious military conflict, but we are talking about peacetime, which cannot leave anyone indifferent.
The term distracted driving is used in international law to describe this phenomenon. Twenty years ago, the main risk in using telephones was mostly distracting the driver by dialing a number and driving with one hand. The revolution took place in the late 2000s when social networks and instant messengers began to gain popularity, which many people use while driving (Pope et al. 2017). High-speed mobile and accessible Internet has also been developed.
At the same time, foreign experts began to sound the alarm. Back in 2009, the European Commission referred to studies conducted in different countries in its report: Swedish experts said that every year about 10-20 people died on the roads due to the use of telephones while driving; in Denmark, for the same reason, they recorded about 600 deaths and serious injuries, in the United States – 2.6 thousand deaths and 330 thousand injuries on the roads (Gliklich 2016). Today, these numbers are much higher: in 2017, according to estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3.1 thousand people died due to distracted driving in the United States (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2020). In parallel with this, the volume of the mobile phone market is growing.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (an American non-profit organization that researches in traffic safety) evaluates the behavior of drivers annually using sociological surveys. In 2018, it turned out that more than 52% of the surveyed drivers spoke on the phone at least once during a month while driving, holding it in their hand, 41.3% – read something on a smartphone, 32.1% – typed a message and a letter in email while driving (The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 2020). Foreign countries are actively developing ways to control the behavior of drivers. In several states in the USA and Canada, police officers, for example, get on a bus or truck to observe what is happening in the car from above. If the police officer sees that the driver uses the phone, they transmit the information over the radio to his colleague on the patrol car, which stops the intruder’s car.
Consequently, limiting the use of a telephone or other similar mobile device while driving a vehicle is a serious and, of course, urgent task, the solution of which is unlikely to be solely in the plane of increasing liability. However, this problem must be addressed comprehensively, since in reality, the introduction of restrictions is an ambiguous issue. When using a mobile phone, even with a headset, the reaction is reduced to the same level as when driving a car by a driver who is in a state of light alcohol or drug intoxication. This is expressed in the fact that the driver is disoriented and distracted by driving (Qin et al. 2019). As practice shows, a driver who speaks on the phone while driving often creates danger on the road with his inadequate, or rather, unpredictable actions while driving.
It is worth considering the circumstances under which the driver uses the gadgets. It is one thing when a person is talking, say, on the phone, and another thing is when a person uses some device that shows him the way and helps him get to his destination. As a result, if the law prohibits all gadgets while driving, then the police will stop any driver who has a cell phone with a connected navigation program on the stand. According to the survey, young people under 24 are especially active against the ban on devices’ use (The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 2020). At the same time, adherents of restrictions were the most among respondents over 45 years old. Even those who support the ban on using any electronic device while driving will still violate it. There are more men than women among the supporters of a complete ban. At the same time, most women are inclined to believe that it is not necessary to abandon the use of gadgets in traffic jams since, at this time, talking on the phone does not distract the driver in any way.
Thus, the use of a mobile communication device while driving a car should be considered a factor of increased danger, causing a large number of road accidents. The effectiveness of countering such illegal manifestations depends on many factors of a social, legal, and technical nature. It is necessary to solve this urgent problem since communication technologies are proceeding with high intensity.
Gliklich, E., Guo, R., and Bergmark, R. W. 2016. Texting While Driving: A Study of 1211 US Adults with the Distracted Driving Survey. Preventive medicine reports, 4, 486-489.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2020. U Drive. U Text. U Pay. Web.
Pope, C. N., Bell, T. R., and Stavrinos, D. 2017. Mechanisms Behind Distracted Driving Behavior: The Role of Age and Executive Function in the Engagement of Distracted Driving. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 98, 123-129.
Qin, L., Li, Z. R., Chen, Z., Bill, M. A., and Noyce, D. A. 2019. Understanding Driver Distractions in Fatal Crashes: An Exploratory Empirical Analysis. Journal of Safety Research, 69, 23-31.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. 2020. AAA Distracted Driving. Web.