Distracted driving was to blame in 80 percent of car crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes, according to a study released by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute last year. The most common distraction? Cell phones, with 73 percent of drivers admitting they talk while they steer, the study found.
Text messages typed on phones phones or other wireless gadgets are growing rapidly in popularity. More than 1 trillion were sent worldwide last year, according to another study, this one by the DeGroote School of Business in Ontario. Cell phone use — hands-free or not — repeatedly has been shown to impair a driver’s abilities.
So if just talking on a cellphone is increasing accidents — just think what texting while driving must do. Text messaging is even more of a safety problem than talking on a cell phone because it requires not just ears but eyes. There is no way you can keep your eyes and attention on the road AND the text you are writing or reading.
A study released in January by Nationwide Mutual Insurance showed that 37 percent of “Generation Y” drivers – teenagers and adults in their 20s – text or instant message while driving, compared to 17 percent of drivers in 30s and early 40s (Generation X-ers), and 2 percent of Baby Boomers in their 50s and 60s.
If you’re an old fart like me you may not realize how very prevalent this is. And of course, young drivers are also the most likely to be in accidents anyway. Add to that the dramatically increased risk of cellphone use while driving, especially texting, and it gets really scary. Every time we leave the house we are surrounded by distracted dangerous drivers.
So what do we do? Some US states have “hands free” laws today (well behind many other countries) and at least three are working on text messaging legislation. I’m not sure how well that will work, but anything seems better than nothing. Personally (and I use my phone in the car right now) I’m starting to think cell phone use by a driver in a moving car should be illegal altogether.
I’ll stop if you will?