Five seconds. That’s about how long a driver takes his or her eyes off the road when reading or responding to a text. It doesn’t seem like a very long period of time until you realize that, at 55 mph, 5 seconds is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.
Texting while driving is hands down the most dangerous form of distracted driving because it requires the use of manual, visual, and cognitive skills. The driver’s eyes, hands and focus are off the road, leaving him or her vulnerable, as well as anyone else who’s in the car or unlucky enough to be on the road. A person’s reaction time is so impaired when they text while driving that the response time delay is the equivalent to having a BAC of .08%. In other words, it’s the same thing as driving while legally intoxicated.
Texting and driving is so dangerous that a driver is 23 times more likely to cause an accident while texting than he would otherwise. Additional car accident stats speak to just how dangerous it is to text and drive. An estimated 385 deaths and 21,000 injuries were caused by people who were texting and driving in 2011 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Texting and the Law
Currently, texting while driving is illegal in 41 states, with another 6 states banning the action by novice drivers. As of October 2013, texting while driving is considered a primary enforcement action, which means that you can be stopped by a police officer for texting while driving even if he or she hasn’t witnessed any other infractions.
The fine varies by state, ranging from $20 in California to $100 in Michigan, $500 in Oregon, and $10,000 in Alaska. Yes, $10,000. Of course, no one wants to get a fine, but it would be a lot better to have to pay $100 to the state of Michigan than it would be to have to face a Benton Harbor car accident lawyer in court, wouldn’t it?
How Many People Text While Driving?
Despite the laws and dangers surrounding texting while driving, the act has become increasingly widespread. An AT & T survey found that 49% of those questioned admitted that they text while driving, and more than 40% of those people said that it had become a habit.
In that same survey, 97% of teens indicated that texting while driving was dangerous. But, 9 in 10 of the teen respondents also said they expect an email or text message response within five minutes of sending it. That, they say, puts pressure on them to respond just as quickly.
Stop the Deadly Habit
Fortunately, there is something that can be done about it. Car insurance carriers, cell phone companies, and others are working to stop the deadly practice of texting while driving by creating apps (many are free) for cell phones that help curb the deadly habit. Here are a few:
- Textecution: This Android app completely disables the texting option once the vehicle exceeds 10 mph. There is an override option available if you’re a passenger in the vehicle. For parents: If you install this app on your teen driver’s phone and they override or uninstall it, you will be notified immediately by text.
- AT&T DriveMode: Free to AT&T subscribers, this app will automatically begin sending customizable auto-responses to incoming texts when the driver exceeds 25 mph.
- DriveSafe.ly: Instead of shutting off communication altogether, DriveSafe.ly reads incoming texts and email in real time, so the driver never has to take his or her hands off the wheel. It even offers a customizable auto-response option.
- Cellcontrol: Brought to us by Esurance, Cellcontrol is a highly customizable app that can block incoming calls and texts when the vehicle is going as slow as 1 mph. It can also be used to block laptops and tablets from being used while driving. So, if electronic distractions are a problem overall, this may be the right app for your needs.
Texting while driving is a deadly distraction. It’s a compulsive habit that most people understand is dangerous, but many people feel compelled to engage in anyway. But, by doing something as simple as installing an app on your cell phone (and using it!), you can go a long way in preventing yourself from becoming a statistic.