The Associated Press says texting while driving is becoming ever more widespread, practiced both brazenly and surreptitiously by so many motorists that police are being forced to get creative to catch them. And they still can’t seem to make much headway. “It’s everyone, kids, older people — everyone. When I stop someone, they say, ‘You’re right. I know it’s dangerous, but I heard my phone go off and I had to look at it,'” said West Bridgewater, Mass., Officer Matthew Monteiro. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates nearly 3,500 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico in 2015, up from almost 3,200 in 2014. The number of deaths in which cellphones were the distraction rose from 406 in 2014 to 476 in 2015.
But many safety advocates say crashes involving cellphones are vastly underreported because police are forced to rely on what they are told by drivers, many of whom aren’t going to admit they were using their phones. “You don’t have a Breathalyzer or a blood test to see if they are using their phones,” said Deborah Hersman, chief executive of the National Safety Council. Forty-six states have laws against texting while driving that typically also ban sending or reading email, using apps or engaging in other internet activity. Fourteen states bar drivers from using hand-held cellphones for any activity, including talking.