Having lived in the US for five years, I still cannot get over how Americans not only make calls at the wheel but will read and send texts as well.
At times, American drivers appear to be more interested in the screen in their lap than the road ahead. And, astonishingly, three states – Arizona, Missouri and Montana – do not even ban drivers from texting at the wheel.
Only 16 states in the US ban the use of a hand-held mobile and while others, including North Carolina, are expected to follow suit, the lack of urgency around this deadly trend is alarming.
According to figures, some 390,000 injuries occur every year in the US as a result of people texting while driving. One in four accidents is attributable to texting at the wheel, and around ten people per day lose their lives as a result of distracted driving.
Even in states where texting at the wheel is illegal, the patchy enforcement of road safety laws means that it is still surprisingly common. But things could be changing, thanks largely to the work of Ben Lieberman, whose 19-year-old son was killed in a head-on collision in 2011.
He spent months in the courts fighting to get access to the mobile phone records of the driver of the car in which his son was a passenger. When they were eventually produced, they showed that the motorist had been texting at the wheel.
Now Lieberman is pushing for states to use an Israeli-made device known as a "textalyzer", which makes a detailed interrogation of a mobile phone after a car crash. It enables officers to see not only whether a phone was being used at the time of a collision, but how. It will pick up whether, for example, a driver was looking at Facebook or reading emails.
In his native New York, legislation is progressing slowly. But Westchester County, which is just north of New York City, has said it is willing to conduct a trial. And in Nevada, where I recently had a terrifyingly close encounter with a texting driver, similar legislation has been introduced by a member of the state's assembly, Michelle Gorelow.
"It is a universal problem," Lieberman told the Telegraph. "I hear so many awful stories and people are asking me for advice."
Even though there is legislation tackling distracted driving, without the ability to interrogate mobile phones, it is toothless. Lieberman said: "If a piranha doesn't have teeth, it is little more than an ugly guppy."
There has been some push-back from opponents, who argue that the device infringes the fourth amendment of the US Constitution which protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Road safety campaigners, however, are backing Lieberman. David Reich, communications director with the New York City-based National Road Safety Foundation, said: "It is a very bad problem and in the past few years we have had a spike in road fatalities.
"They had been coming down, but for the past couple of years they have increased by about eight per cent a year. Experts say it is partly because there are more people on the road, but also a lot is attributed to distracted driving.
"Anything which can get distracted drivers off the road is a good thing."
Given the carnage that distracted drivers cause on American roads, it is hard to disagree.
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