Legislation vs. Education: Where will the issue be solved?

Since the issue of distracted driving first caught the public’s eye, there have been many different opinions on whether legislation will create prevention. As I looked at the recent news yesterday on distracted driving I found that the research and facts are mixed as well. A Seattle Times article titled “Year-old cellphone law drives home point about distracted driving,” was followed by an article about a recent Temple University research study that was titled, “Distracted driving data and laws to prevent it don’t match up.” These articles lend a good explanation as to why opinions are mixed on the issue of what’s the right approach.

After talking with many teenage drivers over the past few months, I can say that there are definitely pros and cons to legislation, and the students have given me prime examples. When I was at a small school in Wisconsin talking to students about the new legislation on texting and driving in the state, I asked a new teenage driver his opinion of the law. He merely grimaced at the question and explained that if he holds his phone down below the window, he will be in the clear as his distracted action would not be visible by a police officer. I then asked another teenage driver her opinion of the new law. She replied back explaining a law is a law and that law will be carried out by the majority of the people because they fear the consequence. From the young man who is now driving with one hand on the wheel and the other on the floorboards texting to the young girl carrying out the law, you can see the range of negative and positive actions being taken.

That leaves me with one clear conclusion. One of the main things that can be done to make roads safer and prevent distracted driving is to supplement strong legislation with enhanced, on-going distracted driving education. For most of us, laws are enough to get us to change our behavior. Unfortunately, there are going to be people out there that just don’t get it. It’s obvious that if we’re to solve the problem, we have got to do more than just pass a bill and think the problem’s solved. On the same note, relying on education alone also isn’t enough. As far as we’re concerned, it’s not an either/or proposition: strong laws are necessary, but we must also begin to educate today to save lives tomorrow.

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