Texting While Driving

In today’s Digital Age, it’s easy to become inextricably linked to one’s phone. People want to stay in contact with others at all times, except when they are sleeping. People want to check the Web and their email as the number of apps for smartphones continues to skyrocket. People also want to send and receive text messages at all hours of the day and night.

When that obsession with texting carries over into a motorized vehicle and the text-er is behind the wheel of a car or truck, all sorts of bad things happen. Texting while driving has become so epidemic and dangerous that nationwide campaigns have sprung up to discourage it, even drawing in the likes of Oprah Winfrey, who has adopted no-texting-while-driving as one of her pet causes.

In addition, many states have reacted quickly to this regrettable trend. Ten states and the District of Columbia now prohibit usage of a hand-held phone while driving, and 32 states and the District prohibit such use among new drivers.

A full 39 states have outlawed texting while driving, and one hopes that the other 11 will soon follow, given the obvious danger imposed by drivers who text and operate a vehicle. Continued public pressure should bring more states into the fold of outlawing texting while driving, especially as the public becomes more aware of the gruesome numbers.

If you are someone who does not text while driving, you might wonder what the fuss is all about. However, if you are ever rammed by a vehicle in which the driver was texting while driving, the problem will become much more real to you. In short, whether or not you are the type of person that is constantly on your phone, texting and driving presents a very real danger to all drivers on the road, even the less technically savvy or wired.

Here are a few of the stunning numbers that jump out at us when we take a closer look at this new national problem:

  • In 2011, a whopping 23% of all auto accidents involved cell phone usage, which amounted to 1.3 million accidents. To put that number in perspective, realize that those 1 million+ accidents would not have occurred before the widespread sale of personal cell phones began just more than a decade ago!

  • Five seconds is the minimal amount of time that your attention is diverted from the road when you are texting while driving. At 55 mph, your vehicle will travel the length of a football field while your eyes are off the road and on your screen and touch pad.

  • Texting increases your chance of having an accident by 23 times! Other related motions jack up your chances of having a collision, such as dialing a phone number (2.8 times more likely), talking or listening during a phone conversation (1.3 times more likely) or even reaching for your device (1.4 times more likely).

  • A full 13% of teen drivers aged 18-20 involved in vehicle crashes admitted to talking or texting on their phones just before the collision.

  • Among the youngest teen drivers, aged 16 and 17, more than 1/3 says that they have texted while driving.

  • Despite the statistics above, which definitively prove the hazards of texting while driving, 77% of young adult drivers are “confident” or “very confident” that they can text while driving, while 55% claim that it is “easy” to text and drive at the same time. This reveals a huge gap between reality and opinion on this subject, with perilous consequences for all drivers on the road.

  • Teens that do text while driving have been proven to spend 10% of their time outside of their proper lane as their vehicle cruises down the road, increasing the risk for all around them.

  • Adults are not at all exempt from this hazardous habit. Fifteen percent of teens say that they have seen their parents text and drive at the same time. Twenty-seven percent of adults admit that they have sent or read a text message while driving.

  • Here’s a truly scary number: almost half of all children aged 12-17 have been in a car while the driver was texting. That’s a lot of young people endangered by a driver who believes s/he must send or read a text message!

As we go down the road in our car or truck, we all have times when our cell phones indicate that someone has texted or called us. It can be extremely tempting to pick up the phone and read the message. However, in more and more states, it is illegal to do just that.

Better to ignore the text until you can pull of the road and read it, which you should do if you think that the message has vital importance. Otherwise, the person who texted  you needs to understand that you are unavailable at the moment, no matter how important everyone involved believes the message to be. Another good tip to decide how to respond to incoming texts is to give your cell phone to another passenger while driving and let him/her relay messages to you.

Texting and driving definitively causes more than a million accidents each year. Don’t add to that number by texting or reading texts while driving, no matter how skilled you think you are at doing two activities at once. The numbers above prove that no human being can safely drive a car and text at the same time. Believe the statistics, not your ego.