Prior to the 1990s the connotation of the term “text” usually referred to a book or a work of literature and not a message sent instantly to another device; conversely circa 2000 with the act of “texting” began to skyrocket in popularity. The very first SMS (short message service) text message was sent by Neil Papworth, a 22 year-old test engineer, on December 3, 1992 from his personal computer to the Vodafone network to the phone of his friend. By 2007 when mobile phones were released with better keyboards testing became the most preferred method of communication, especially by the younger generation. Although, texting made communication easier there have been major consequences involved with texting. The most frequent and fatal consequence is death due to distracted driving, whether the driver who is at fault is killed or an innocent pedestrian or driver is killed.
There are a myriad of current issues pertaining to distracted driving, the majority of which pertain to texting and driving in particular. Approximately 303 million people in the United States own mobile devices and about 80% of those cell phone users admit to using their phones when driving. In a 2011 study it was found that 73% of young drivers say texting and driving is easy and they have no problems with distraction, but the study also found 23% of nearly 1.3 million car crashes were a result of young drivers who were texting.
Currently, there are several plans in place that have success in addressing the issue of texting and driving. One plan, established by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYS DMV) and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), addresses the issue of texting and driving with a more uniform approach to addressing all forms of distracted driving as a whole. The Highway Safety Strategic Plan (HSSP) is composed of several sections each addressing an issue or issues related to one another.
The section referring to texting while driving includes a sub-plan created within the HSSP called the Police Traffic Services (PTS) Program. The objective of the PTS Program is to prevent higher frequencies in fatalities, injuries, crashes and traffic violations in hazardous areas through “data-driven high visibility enforcement”. Through the combined enforcement of high visibility and sustained traffic safety messaging, the PTS Program has proven to be effective in reducing hazardous driving behaviors, including but not limited to, texting while driving, as well as becoming an important component of the overall traffic safety program in New York State. After being on an increasing trend since 2011, the number of injury crashes involving texting while driving decreased from 69 in 2013 to 66 in 2014, then increased to 70 in 2015. The number of tickets issued for cell phone use continued to decrease, dropping 47% from 248,239 in 2011 to 132,125 in 2015.