According to the Federal Communications Commission, at any time of the day or night, 660,000 people are using electronic devices while driving in the United States. This number has held steady since the year 2010 despite warnings about how dangerous this activity is. What this tells us is that people are not taking the warnings seriously. Obviously, nobody thinks that they are going to wind up in a crash when they answer their cell or send that text. After all, everybody is doing it, right?
Distracted drivers are involved in a huge percentage of traffic accidents where people are injured or killed. In 2014, there were 3,179 people killed and 431,000 people injured in vehicle crashes involving distracted driving. Distracted driving could mean eating while driving, adjusting the radio, daydreaming or doing anything that distracts you from paying attention to the road and what’s going on around you.
Of all forms of distracted driving, texting is the worst. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving is defined as:
- Visual – taking your eyes off the road
- Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive – thinking about something besides driving
When you text and drive, you are doing all three of the above. What you are also doing is gambling with your own life, the lives of any passengers in your vehicle and the lives of everybody around you. A car is potentially a lethal weapon. Texting while driving is just as crazy as shooting a loaded gun into the air. Why is this okay?
Why Do People Text and Drive?
According to a recent telephone survey by AT&T, 98 percent of the 1,000 nationwide participants agreed that texting while driving is dangerous. Yet as many as 66 percent admitted they use their cell while driving. Here’s what they did.
- Read a text: 43 percent
- Send a text: 27 percent
- Check for new messages: 34 percent
While waiting at a red light or stop sign:
- Read a text: 66 percent
- Send a text: 49 percent
- Check for new messages: 49 percent
The survey asked participants questions designed to pinpoint why they feel a need to text while driving. Forty-three percent said they want to stay connected to family and friends. Thirty percent said it was a habit. Twenty-seven percent felt that their driving was not affected. Twenty-eight percent said they were afraid they would miss something important. Twenty-seven percent said they felt others expected them to respond immediately. And 6 percent admitted they’re addicted to texting.
Probably a big reason that people text and drive is that they don’t think they will get into an accident because of it. Many people do it, and they have never been in an accident and do not know anybody who was in an accident because of using their phone, so it may be hard to take the statistics seriously, especially for young people.
Texting and Driving Statistics Show That Young Adults Are the Top Offenders
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation[[iv]], adults ages 20-29 accounted for 38 percent of drivers involved in fatal accidents while using a cell phone in 2013. Teenagers accounted for 11 percent, adults ages 30-39 accounted for another 20 percent, and the percentage goes down the older the age group, with one percent aged 70 and above who were using a cell when they got in a fatal car crash.
There were 24,000 crashes with an injury where a driver was using a cell in 2013 alone. These are not numbers: they are people who were seriously hurt. No matter how much you want to consider yourself a safe driver and don’t want to hurt anybody, distracted driving maims and kills.
Is Texting While Driving Illegal?
Texting and driving is illegal in 46 states. Regardless whether it’s illegal, it is reckless behavior, and if you are involved in an accident, especially if you live in one of the 46 states where it is against the law to text and drive, it will be relatively easy to prove that you were using your phone at the time of the accident. If you are in a serious accident where somebody is injured or killed or even an accident with major property damage, the other driver’s attorney and/or insurance company will almost certainly demand production of electronic records including your cell phone transcripts. The records can prove you were texting while driving at the time the accident occurred.
No matter what the other driver did to cause the accident, chances are you will face liability or your compensation will be reduced if you were using your cell. Depending on the laws of the state where you live, if you were texting and driving and got into an accident which caused injury or death, you could face jail time in addition to financial liability.
Cell Phones and Driving Don’t Mix
The best thing you can do to drive safely is to turn your phone down or off before you get in your car. There are apps you can get that block text messages while you’re driving. There’s no emergency that cannot wait until you get where you are going or pull over for a rest stop if it’s a long trip. People survived for years without having access to phone communication while driving. Even using a hands-free phone is distracting, though not nearly as lethal as texting and driving. You don’t owe it to anybody to behave like a bad guy endangering others on the road.
Your friends will respect your decision to be unavailable while driving, and you will be setting a good example for your children. Even if everybody else you know is driving and texting, you can break away from group behavior and be a leader, set a good example for your friends and maybe even save a life if you or a friend who follows your example avoids getting in an accident.