Texting & Driving
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If you or someone you love uses a cell phone and has a valid driver’s license, you may be in danger of a serious driving infraction that’s now illegal in 39 states and counting. No, we’re not talking about speeding or even a DUI. We’re talking about the 21st Century trend that has swept the nation, affecting drivers from coast to coast:
texting and driving.
What is the origin of texting and driving?
- 1990sMobile phone text messaging was introduced with limited availability.
- 2000sSeveral wireless phone providers began to offer text messaging in their service packages.
- 2008sEveryone preferred texting than phone calling.
Americans were texting more than they were calling on their cell phones; mobile subscribers sent roughly 357 text messages a month compared to 204 phone calls per month.
Text messaging is more affordable and accessible. It was around this same time that texting and driving became an issue.
As early as 2008, states like Alaska changed their legislation to make texting while driving a misdemeanor punishable with up to one year in jail.
Who is texting and driving? The answer may surprise you. The Center for Disease Control compiled statistics for distracted driving in both the US and Europe. Although texting and driving is the most common offense, others cell phone related activities can cause similar danger, such as checking email or Facebook behind the wheel.
In the survey, drivers reported:
A typical offender of texting and driving is likely to be a young driver, even a teen.
Self-reported texting/emailing while driving in the past 30 days among drivers ages 18 and older
United States, 2010
Based on the chart above. Drivers ages 18-29 are the biggest offenders of regular texting and driving. Drivers ages 30-39 come in second, followed by drivers ages 40-49.
Now that you better understand the highest risk age groups for texting behind the wheel, you may be wondering how the US stacks up against other countries. We’re glad you asked! The CDC also provides a comparison of cell phone use while driving among drivers 18 and older in the US and Europe compared to other countries:
The US Compared To Europe
Self-reported cell phone use while driving in the past 30 days among drivers ages 18 and older
United States leads the pack in regular texting behind the wheel. In both the Netherlands and Portugal, texting and driving is a common occurrence; countries like France, Germany, and the UK have significantly fewer distracted drivers on the road.
A typical offender of texting and driving is likely to be a young driver, even a teen. Teens at the highest risk for distracted driving are those who “think they’re invincible”
Statistically speaking, teen girls are more likely to text and drive than teen boys.
In an opposing twist to the teen driver demographic, men are more likely to text and drive than women at 51% versus 42%.
Driving And Facebooking Unsafe
Taylor, a beautiful young woman, was making a four hour drive home from Utah State University to Idaho. She tried to beat boredom en route by chatting with a friend on Facebook, where one cryptic post revealed that: “Driving and facebooking is not safe!”
Within moments, Taylor hit the back of a slow-moving tanker truck at 80 mph. She died instantly as she did not brake before crashing into the truck in front of her. When police checked her cell phone records, they found that she was posting to Facebook roughly every 90 seconds throughout her drive.
As we pointed out earlier, younger drivers are the highest risk group for distractions caused by texting and driving. Here are a few more sobering statistics to shed light on the issue:
Young passengers are less likely to confront a driver who is texting while driving.
A 2011 survey revealed that young drivers are more likely to have been involved in a near-crash or crash caused by distracted driving.
Drivers younger than 25 are 2 to 3 times more likely to text or email while driving compared to older drivers.
While teens are major culprits of texting while driving – sending an estimated 1500 text messages per month – you may be shocked to find that adults in the US could be more likely to text behind the wheel than teens, according to new research.
of adults admit to sending or receiving text messages will driving.
82% of Americans over 18 have a cell phone.
58% text regularly.
of teens ages 16 and 17 admit to sending or receiving text messages will driving.
75% of teens have a cell phone.
66% text regularly.
An age group called the “Millennials”,ranging from ages 18 to 33, is most likely to text and drive. This age group is also more likely to have ridden in a car with a driver who texted behind the wheel.
To compare adult age groups when it comes to texting and driving:
- 59%of Millennials
(18 — 33 years old)
- 50%of Gen Xers
(34 — 45 years old)
- 29%of Baby Boomers
(46 — 64 years old)
If you fall into the 91% of Americans that use a cell phone, this is a message you need to hear. Even though you may have the best intentions and swear up and down that you’ll never text, email, or post to Facebook while driving, no one is perfect.
There’s a chance – even a slight chance – that you may try to shoot your spouse a quick text on the way home, confirming that you’ll pick up the kids from school. Yet even a split-second glance from the road could leave you at risk for a long list of dangers associated with texting and driving, like:
Traffic ticket for speeding or another driving infraction, i.e. running a stop sign.
Fines/criminal charges, depending on the state.
Causing damage to your vehicle.
Injuring yourself, others and causing fatalities to yourself or others.
There are roughly 3000 deaths a year caused by crashes from distracted driving.
Research proves that texting while driving creates manual, visual, and mental distraction, making it the worst distracted driving offense of all.
What is even more shocking is the fact that surveys have revealed that 100,000 drivers may be texting at any moment in the day; over 600,000 drivers drive while talking with a cell phone on their ear.
To better understand the dangers of texting while driving, here is a chart that compares different cell phone tasks and the crash risks that they can cause behind the wheel:
Risk of crash/near crash event
- 2.8xHigher than non-distracted driving
- 1.3xHigher than non-distracted driving
- 1.4xHigher than non-distracted driving
Risk of crash/near crash event
- 5.9xHigher than non-distracted driving
- 1.0xHigher than non-distracted driving
- 6.7xHigher than non-distracted driving
- 23.2xHigher than non-distracted driving
Something as simple as talking on a cell phone makes a driver 1.3 times more distracted behind the wheel. Dialing a cell phone in a heavy vehicle or truck increases distraction risk by 5.9 times. When text messaging while driving a heavy vehicle or truck, the distraction risk increases 23.2 times.
Given the fact that texting while driving causes a serious distraction, it would only make sense that roadway dangers have heightened as cell phone use has become more popular in the past 10 years.
Using intriguing statistics for the state of Pennsylvania as an example, here is an estimated timeline of the dangers of distracted driving within the past decade:
5715 car accidents were linked to cell phone use
Accidents caused by texting or talking on a cell phone increased 36% in two years
Handheld cell phone use caused 1170 car crashes
Car accidents caused by cell phone use resulted in 50 deaths
1298 accidents were caused by cell phone use;
9 accidents were fatal. Driver distraction was estimated to cause 10% of the 23,059 crashes amongst 16 to 19-year-olds
Cell phone use while driving increased by 0.9%..
37% of drivers sent or received text messages while driving.
Other dangerous cell phone behavior behind the wheel:
- Watching Videos
- Taking Picture
44% of adult study participants revealed that they had witnessed a driver engaging in one of the aforementioned activities. This is compared to 40% of teens that have ridden in a car while a driver used a cell phone in a dangerous manner.
In light of the thousands of car accidents and fatal crashes caused by texting and driving, it’s no wonder that state legislators throughout the US want to put a stop to this madness.
- All drivers
- No ban
- Handheld cell
- Handhel cell for drivers 18-20
- Cell phone for new drivers
- Cell phone for school bus drivers
- Distracted / inattention attribute
- Cell phone for drives in state vehicles
- Cell phone in school zone
- Cell phone in constriction zone
- Cell phone for learner’s permit
As mentioned above, 39 states ban texting while driving completely, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam. 12 of these laws were recently passed in 2010. 10 states, including the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, prohibit cell phone use behind the wheel altogether.
While violation of a texting while driving law could result in serious danger on the road, it can also lead to legal penalties. Although the laws vary greatly from state to state, punishment could include any combination of:
Ranging from $20-$500.
May include a criminal misdemeanor, Class B or C.
If the offense leads to injury or death, jail or prison time may result.
Even though the majority of states have some type of texting ban in place, anti-texting-while-driving groups continue to rally for tougher legislation. Nationwide anti-texting campaigns are also used to bring awareness to drivers of all age groups to encourage a change in behavior, before more dangerous consequences occur.
Wireless cell phone provider AT&T has promoted its “It Can Wait” campaign to raise awareness about texting and driving dangers for teens. Other schools have hosted events like a National Day of Awareness to discourage texting and driving throughout the US, with thousands of schools in participation.
The University of Georgia went so far as to launch an anti-texting and driving campaign targeted at student drivers, called txtl8r (text later). The campaign consisted of TV and radio public service announcements and digital signs to bring awareness to students on campus and throughout Georgia.
As public awareness increases, tougher texting while driving laws in each state may be imminent.
Virginia have proposed to increase penalties to make the offense as punishable as reckless driving.
New York make texting and driving a primary offense, meaning that it can warrant a traffic stop and ticket for a single violation.
New York officials have even proposed the introduction of new technology that will automatically shut off electronic devices in a car
- Request that the driver stops texting behind the wheel.
- Offering to text or email for the driver so that they can focus on the road.
- Offering your eyes to off the road for just a moment.
- Be a good role model.
- Not to call or text a teen that may be driving.
- Review teen cell phone bills to check that they aren’t texting during their normal driving times.
- Turn off cell phones completely while driving and use voicemail to receive messages.
- Pull off the road to text or make a call.
- Place cell phones in the trunk or backseat to avoid the temptation to text.
“Even one texting and driving exception could result in an accident”
If you take one thing away from this article, we hope that you leave with the fact that texting and driving isn’t worth the risk, under any circumstance. Texting and driving is a growing epidemic that could lead to the injury or death of yourself and others.
By taking your eyes off the road for just a moment, you instantly become a distracted driver and 23 times more likely to crash.
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- “Text Messaging Explodes In America – CBS News.” Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News – CBS News.
- “Texting while driving – lawbrain.com.” Main Page – lawbrain.com.
- “CDC Data & Statistics | Feature: Distracted Driving in the United States and Europe.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving.” http://www.distraction.gov.
- “Distracted Driving | PEER Awareness.” PEER Awareness.
- “Cell Phone Accident Statistics and Texting While Driving Facts.” Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyers – Pittsburgh Attorneys.
- “Parents of teen who died texting and driving: ‘Kids think they’re invincible’ – TODAY News – TODAY.com.” TODAY – Top News Stories, Video Clips, Recipes and Guests | TODAY.com.
- “Pew: Adults More Likely to Text and Drive Than Teens | News & Opinion | PCMag.com.” Technology Product Reviews, News, Prices & Downloads | PCMag.com | PC Magazine.
- By Chris Clark