After Pleading Guilty, Driver Sentenced to Public Awareness Campaign on the Dangers of Texting, Driving

textA man in North Dakota has received an unorthodox sentence as part of the state’s plan to bring him to justice. After pleading guilty to negligent homicide, 21-year-old Nicholas Milbrandt has been sentenced to 30 days in jail and 100 days spent on the road promoting public awareness of the dangers of texting and driving. Milbrandt was arrested after he collided with and killed 61-year-old Royce Rodacker in August of 2013. Milbrandt admitted to sending texts to friends on his phone at the time of the accident. Following his stint in prison, Milbrandt will start a tour, visiting high schools and other venues, in order to help dissuade young drivers from picking up their phones while driving, a disturbingly popular activity.

Texting-While-Driving is Becoming One of America’s Deadliest Issues
Texting is adding to the number of young drivers killed in accidents every year in the United States at an alarming rate. 10% of all drivers under the age of 20 killed in automobile accidents are distracted at the time, and with 171 billion texts sent per year in the United States alone, it only makes sense that texting while driving is increasingly becoming one of the main distractions on the road.

Many young drivers, like North Dakota’s Milbrandt, think that the laws barring texting-while-driving are ridiculous. In fact, 77% of young adult drivers say they are somewhat or very confident that they can drive safely while texting. However, when the studies show that texting makes you 23 times more likely to be in a car accident — potentially making it more dangerous than drinking and driving — it’s clear that beliefs among young drivers do not coincide with the harsh reality.

New Efforts Under Way to Target Biggest Risk: Our Children
2014 has brought with it a number of encouraging signs that Americans are ready to take serious steps to curb this endemic issue. Multiple states, from North Dakota to New York, are taking steps to crack down on drivers, both teens and adults, who are caught texting behind the wheel.

However, as critics accurately point out, the police can’t catch every driver that makes a stupid decision. Maybe the answer lies in the technology that is causing the problem in the first place. Drive Mode, a new mobile app for Apple and Blackberry devices, will actually stop the phone from functioning when drivers are behind the wheel. Using the built in accelerometer most smartphones have, Drive Mode will block texting and calling functions for drivers traveling at more than 25 miles-per-hour.

None of these solutions, from Milbrandt’s upcoming public awareness campaign to the push for driver-safe mobile phones, are perfect. However, as the number of parents losing children increases due to distracted driving, they are certainly a step in the right direction.