Statistical data on people who juggle with their cell phones and the driving wheel makes it obvious that this is an issue that needs some attention. If we are to go by the data put forth by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety as a part of their 2014 Traffic Safety Culture Index, more than a third of the drivers (36.1 percent) admit to have read a text or an email while driving in the past month. As if that was not enough, more than a quarter of them (27.1 percent) admit to have typed or sent a text message or an email while on the wheel. A newly coined term for a person who is distracted by texting while he is driving.
What is more surprising, is the fact that 78.6 percent of drivers say that texting while driving is a very serious threat to safety, and 89.3 percent support the idea of outlawing it. It's unlikely that people don't know what they are getting into when they text while driving; after all, distracted driving is responsible for a large number of casualties every year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 3,154 people were killed and 424,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2013. Despite that, people just can't seem to resist the urge to use their cell phones even when they are on the freeway.
When you try to do two things simultaneously, it's unlikely that you will do either of them properly. An apt example of this using cell phone while driving―a dangerous practice responsible for a significant number of accidents. With the increasing use of cell phones, our craving for texting has also increased. We can't seem to resist the thought of attending and replying to messages―not even while driving. It's but obvious that when a person engages in cell phone use while driving, he is unlikely to keep his eyes on the road or on road signs, and that, in turn, makes him vulnerable to an accident.
➠ In a survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) in 2014, 78.6 percent respondents said that they believed that texting while on the driving wheel was a serious threat―down from 81 percent respondents in 2012. What's more disturbing though, is that the number of people who admitted to have indulged in this practice increased from 26 percent to 27 percent during this period.
➠ It increases the chances of a crash by 23 percent. When a driver is texting, he takes his eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds on an average. If the car is traveling at 55 mph, it will cover the length of a football field in that time.
➠ It also reduces the person's brake reaction speed by a significant extent―by a whopping 18 percent if we are to go by the data put forth by the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society.
➠ If researchers at the Cohen Children's Medical Center (Long Island) are to be believed, more than 3,000 teenagers are killed in texting-related accidents in the US every year. If that's true, then it makes the practice more serious than driving under influence, which, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), results in 2,700 teen deaths every year.
➠ According to the NHTSA, texting while driving is six times more dangerous than driving under influence. An individual who has his attention on a text message while driving at the speed of 35 mph will cover 25 ft before bringing the car to complete halt as opposed to the distance of 4 ft, which a drunk driver would cover at the same speed.
➠ In a survey conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., 26 percent teenagers admitted to have read or sent a text message at least once every time they took the wheel. In contrast, only 1 percent of the surveyed parents believed that their children were indulging in this practice.
➠ In the UMTRI-Toyota survey, 20 percent of the surveyed teenagers and 10 percent of the surveyed parents admitted to having an extended text conversation while driving. Additionally, the teenage respondents also admitted to have used Facebook and/or Twitter while driving.
➠ There is no questioning the fact that texting while driving adversely affects all drivers, but a study at the Detroit's Wayne State University revealed that older drivers were more likely to drift into the next lane when indulging in it. In this study, 25 percent respondents of the 18 - 24 age group, 50 percent of 25 - 34 age group, 80 percent of 35 - 44 age group, and all of who were surveyed from the 45 - 59 age group drifted into the next lane while texting.
➠ In two separate surveys conducted by AT&T, 49 percent commuters and 43 percent teens admitted that they had indulged in texting while on the wheel, which reinforces the belief that adults are more prone to the hazardous practice than teenagers. Over 40 percent of those who admitted to have indulged in this practice said that it had become a habit for them, which is surprising considering that 98 percent of the respondents said that they knew that it was unsafe to do so.
➠ Several states have come up ordinances to outlaw the practice. It is banned in 45 states and the DC, as well as territories like Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands. The states of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas prohibit novice drivers from texting, with Oklahoma and Texas even prohibiting school bus drivers from indulging in it.
Implementation of stringent laws can help us bring down the number of texting-related accidents by a significant extent. At the same time, the onus is on the parents to make sure that their wards make wise use of both, the vehicle and cell phone. It's easy to dismiss these statistics as exaggerations in a classic case of killing the messenger, but that won't do much to solve the problem. These statistics will at least make people aware of the threat that texting while driving is. If they help us save lives, we ought to be grateful about it.