Texting While Driving: Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

 

 I know this is not my normal type of post but it is very important! Please tell all your friends about it and spread the word about safe driving.

    According to foxnew.com, “A report from the University of Utah says ‘When motorists between the ages of 18 and 25 talk on cell phones, they drive like elderly people – moving and reacting more slowly and increasing their risk of accidents.’ ‘If you put a 20-year-old driver behind the wheel with a cell phone, his reaction times are the same as a 70-year-old driver,’ said David Strayer, a University of Utah psychology professor and principal author of the study. ‘It’s like instant aging.” The report goes on the explain that the difference is only a matter of milliseconds, but it could mean the difference between hitting a child in the road or not.

   The statistics and studies about teens and texting while driving are shocking and down-right scary. In 2007, driver distractions, such as using a cellphone or texting, contributed to nearly 1,000 crashes involving 16-17 year old drivers. According to a 2011 Distracted Driving study over 37% of drivers have sent or received text messages while driving, and 18% said they do it regularly. Over 60% of American teens admit to risky driving, and nearly 50% of those specifically admit to texting behind wheel. Teens say that texting is their number one driver distraction. Over one-third of all young drivers, 24 and under, are texting on the road. Interestingly enough, in March 2012 the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released “Distracted Driving Among Newly Licensed Teen Drivers,” an in-car video study that found that teenage girls are two times more likely than teenage boys to use cellphones and other electronic devices while driving; and that of all cellphone related tasks – including talking, dialing, or reaching for phone – texting while driving is the most dangerous.

     As important as these facts are to know, it is not enough to know the problem is there. Here are some facts about the effects of the problem. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15-20-year-olds. Teen drivers are four times more likely than adults to get into car crashes or near crash events directly related to talking on cells or texting. Around 6,000 deaths and half a million injuries are caused by distracted driving each year. Each year, 21% of fatal car crashes involving teens ages 16-19 were the result of cellphone usage. This result has been expected to grow as much as 4% each year. Sadly, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a survey released by State Farm in April 2012 found that “Many teens continue to engage in texting behind the wheel even though aware of the dangers.” In the survey, conducted for State Farm by Harris Interactive, only 43% of drivers 16 or 17 years said that they had never texted while driving, the same percentage as in State Farm’s first survey two years ago. These staggering results do not seem to deter teens from texting while driving even though 76 % of teens ages 14-17 agree that motorists risk their lives by doing so and 93% believe that an accident is “inevitable among drivers who text.”

     There are efforts being made to fix the problem however. Texting is banned for all drivers in 39 states and the District of Columbia, and ten states and the District of Columbia have banned the use of hand-held cellphones all together while driving. Drivers with learner’s permits are restricted from the use of all cellphones in 32 states and the District of Columbia, and specifically banned from texting in 5 states, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

 

     Federally, the first attempt to legislate the use of handheld cellphones while driving came in 2002. There have been House and Senate bills presented regarding driving and cellphone use each year since, so far none have passed. Florida is one of 11 states without a ban on texting by all drivers, and Governor Rick Scott, a Conservative Republican, does not appear supportive of a handheld cell ban. In 2011, he vetoed a bill (HB 689) that would have required the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide education on the dangers of electronically distracted driving. According to the Gainesvillle Sun,“Florida lawmakers said that while they agreed the issue needs legislative attention, they would need more data and more details before considering a specific bill.” Does that mean they need more teens getting in crashes and dieing too?

   The problem is that even where there are restrictions, despite the known risks, the majority of teen drivers ignore them and text anyway. There are things that can be done to make a difference. First, if your state has no laws, encourage individual counties to make laws restricting or banning texting and cell-phone use. Second, start campaigns in schools, especially high schools, to show the effects and consequences of texting while driving. Create TV, internet and social media ads that catch the attention of teens and strongly make the point that texting while driving is dangerous and deadly.

  There are things I can do also to help challenge my friends to be safe drivers. First, start trying to be a positive influence to my friends when they are driving, encouraging them not to text while driving. Second, share statistics and reports on widely viewed medias showing the dangers of texting while driving. Third, start a local text free driving campaigns. Lastly, I could support legislation to ban texting while driving, especially for teens, and encourage politicians to push the bans.

   Each of us can do our part to encourage our friends and family, especially teens not to text while driving, and we can certainly make the decision for ourselves not to text while driving. Everyone, no matter if they are a teen or not, should make the safe choice and decide not to text while driving. We can all save lives.