America’s growing epidemic, distracted driving, is killing people. Texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated, according to a study carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Motorists engage in secondary behavior during more than half of their time spent driving – an action that is a factor in more than one million national car crashes and 16% of fatal accidents annually. And texting is the number one distracted driving activity by a long-shot. “We have recently seen a large influx of accidents that involve a driver that was distracted by the use of a cell phone” says Las Vegas attorney William Brim. With technology at drivers’ fingertips, drivers are becoming more and more tempted to send and read quick text messages that they, by-and-large, assume to be harmless. The truth is, texting while driving takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds and increases the chances of a crash by 23 percent. To put that into perspective, if a vehicle is traveling at 55mph, the average driver doesn’t look at the road for about the length of an entire football field while composing and sending a text.
With texting and driving becoming a frighteningly common behavior, various organizations and researchers have been carrying out tests to determine just how dangerous the habit is. Car and Driver Magazine performed an experiment to document those dangers, in comparison with the widely known risky activity of drunk driving. During the experiment, cars were rigged with a red light to alert drivers when to brake. The magazine tested how long it would take to hit the brakes when sober, when legally impaired at a BAC level of .08, when reading an e-mail and when sending a text. Sober, focused drivers took an average of 0.54 seconds to brake. For legally drunk drivers four feet needed to be added. An additional 36 feet was necessary for reading an e-mail, and a whopping additional 70 feet was needed to send a text.
In a different experiment reported in the journal of Traffic Injury Prevention, participants either used a cell phone while driving or consumed alcohol beforehand. It should be noted that habitual drinkers and people who had never consumed alcohol before were not allowed to participate in the experiment. In the driving simulation, drivers were asked to stay in the center or left lane and maintain a speed of 37-50mph. Scientists found that when the participants texted with their phones they drove with a comparable BAC of 1.0.
Another test conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory in London found that drivers who texted had slower response times, were more likely to drift in and out of lanes and even drove worse than drivers who were high on marijuana. The study found that reaction times for texting drivers were 35% worse than those of drivers with no distractions.
Ten states plus D.C. prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones, 32 states and D.C. forbid novice from using cell phones and 39 states plus D.C. prohibit all drivers from texting.