Texting While Driving: The Deadly Truth

Texting While DrivingWhile various state laws restricting - or outright banning - the use of cell phones and other texting devices while driving have only been in existence since 2008, the fact that texting while driving is a dangerous distraction has been in the news since 2006.

Likewise, the data regarding car accidents that involve texting or other cell phone use while driving is similarly limited, though more and more statistics are being made public every week. Still, most of the available information dates from 2008 and 2007, and while it is clear that anything which takes a driver's attention from the road is dangerous, including talking on cell phones - even if they're hands free - or texting, and distracted driving is the leading cause of car accidents, the jury is still out on exactly how great the influence of using mobile communications devices behind the wheel contributes to car crashes.

So, what do the numbers say? Well, in 2008, at any moment in time, more than 800,000 people in the United States alone were making calls, sending texts, or otherwise using a handheld mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle during daylight hours. In the same year, 6,000 Americans were killed in crashes caused by distracted driving, so it's not difficult to find cause to believe that cell phone use is risky - even deadly - for motorists.

Many believe that the highest-risk group of drivers who use cell phones behind the wheel are teen drivers, which makes sense since, it seems, every American teenager has a cell phone glued to his or her ear or cradled in his or her hands with thumbs moving rapidly over keys, all the time.  Mere observation pales, however,  in relation to some facts about teen drivers, collected from various auto insurance companies, as well as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Here are just a few:

Teens and Texting: Some Scary Statistics

  • The majority of teen drivers ignore legal restrictions on cell phone use or texting while driving, and in a survey where teens volunteered information, 56% of those queried admitted to talking on their cell phones while behind the wheel, while 13% confessed to texting.
  • 48% of young people (aged 12-17) in the United States say they've been in a car while the driver was texting.
  • Over 60% of American teens admit to risky behavior behind the wheel, and roughly half of them also say they text while operating a vehicle.
  • For each year that statistics exist, 21% of fatal car accidents involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 were the result of cell phone usage, and that number is expected to grow by as much as 4% every year.

Not Just Teens

Teens are not the only drivers to blame for phone-based distractions behind the wheel, however. Overall, almost a quarter of all car accidents are the result of one (or both) drivers talking on a cell phone while on the road, and a fifth of the experienced adult drivers in the United States admit to sending text messages while driving.

Five years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a survey which found that 10% of drivers are on cell phones (either handheld or hands-free) at any given hour, and more recently, the IIHS found that drivers who use cell phones while they're behind the wheel are four times more likely to get into a car crash serious enough to injure themselves.

With all those numbers, the question shouldn't be, "Why are so many states banning the use of mobile communications devices while operating a motor vehicle," but, "why are some states NOT enacting similar legislation?"

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