If you can read this message, you may be “glty as chrgd” of texting while driving. Even if you don’t text while driving, you are smart, but may soon be in the minority. More than 20 percent of ALL drivers, not just teens, admit to sending text messages while driving. Chances are that someone driving next to you or toward you is trying to do more than one thing at a time while driving. We all need to be more cognizant of exactly how dangerous this practice is to everyone driving on the highway. Come to find out, this shorthand way of communicating is causing our highways to be clogged with distracted drivers and, more importantly, a significant number of completely avoidable accidents.
Following quickly on the heels of reports that driving while tired can be as dangerous as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, recent studies support the proposition that driving while texting can be equally as dangerous. In fact, it may be more dangerous than violating the most common DUI standard, of .08 blood alcohol level.
At the federal level, the Distracted Driving Summit, being held yesterday and today, is holding discussions about banning texting while driving. United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood opened the summit with this comment, “To put it plainly, distracted driving is a menace to society.” And, while it has been discussed in many state legislatures, few new laws have been enacted. Utah, one of the exceptions, has taken a tough stance on the issue, passing a law which took effect in May stating that offenders face up to fifteen (15) years in prison for causing an accident which results in injury or death. The legislation was in direct response to a 2006 accident which resulted in the death of two men (fathers, husbands, scientists) who were killed by Reggie Shaw, a young Utah resident.
The Today Show on NBC is one of many who have highlighted this topic lately, including questions about whether public service announcements directed toward texting while driving produced overseas are too graphic to display on American television. The University of Utah and Virginia Tech have teamed up to study the issue. Their result, simply stated by Professor David Strayer, “It’s crazy to be doing it.”
In the simple words of a billboard I recently saw in Nashville, Tennessee: “dn’t txt. jst lstn.”