In the United States 17 states and the District of Columbia have cell phone restrictions for teen drivers. In 2003 the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that states limit or bar young drivers from using cell phones while behind the wheel. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. Teens are three times as likely as other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash.
Laws and statistics don’t seem to mean much to the teenaged brain. I know they didn’t when I was that age and driving like a madman. The need to be accessible to friends is a more powerful motivator than a fatality statistic or an obscure law most teens don’t know or care about.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied North Carolina’s law, which fines drivers under the age of 18 who are caught using a cell phone. It then compared the number of teen drivers in South Carolina who drove while using a cell phone, where there are no laws against teens who drive and use a cell phone. The study found that both sets of teens used their cell phones while driving at about the same rate.
I’m not an advocate for laws that ban cellphone use while driving. Talking on the phone can be safe, depending on road conditions and the disposition of the person driving. Most states have laws for reckless or distracted driving that cellphone driving could fit into. The only reason specific laws are passed against the cellphone driver is because it makes people feel better attacking someone who is perceived to be dangerous, even though there are already laws on the books that protect us from people who are actually dangerous.