We have known for a long time that use of a cell phone requires time and attention, which makes it a danger to use while driving an automobile. In spite of this fact, it is obvious to anyone who takes the time to look around that many automobile drivers are engaged in talking on their mobile phones or text messaging while they drive, even though that activity is illegal in Washington State. Perhaps you are one of those people, or someone who has been injured or had a near miss due to a distracted driver.
Now, a new study from The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute looks at what happens when drivers text message while driving and it shows that the risk of a crash text messaging is very high, and far surpasses the danger of other driving distractions.
In the study, a video camera was placed in the cab of long-haul trucks, and the driver’s behavior was recorded for 18 months. The study documents that when these professional divers were texting, their risk of collision was 23 times greater than when not texting. In the moments before a crash or near crash event, drivers sometimes spent nearly five seconds looking at their mobile devices, which is enough time at typical highway speeds to travel more than the length of a football field! Tom Dingus, director of the Virginia Tech institute, one of the world’s largest vehicle safety research organizations, was quoted in the New York Times as saying that the study’s message was clear. “You should never do this,” he said of texting while driving. “It should be illegal.”
The issue of distraction from mobile devices has drawn attention after several recent highly publicized crashes caused by texting drivers, including an episode in May involving a trolley car driver in Boston who crashed a train while texting his girlfriend.
According to The New York Times, use of text messaging has soared. In December, phone users in the United States sent 110 billion messages, a tenfold increase in just three years, according to the cellular phone industry’s trade group, CTIA.
Why do people continue to do this, when the risk to themselves and others is obviously so great? Well, it seems that there is a lot of denial and justification at work. Consider this comment, which was left by “Roar” from Atlanta after the recent New York Times article about the study,
“Look people. I'll tell you what the problem really is: Old People who did not grow up driving with a cell phone. I think anyone who was using a cell phone when they were initially learning to drive had an extra hurdle to leap or object to juggle in their learning process. Though young and still unrefined in their driving skills, I think those who have only driven while texting are going to be better than those who see it as a new phenomenon. i.e. The People in the Study.
All this banning things sounds like folks scared of technology and the future. Darn those confangled new iBoxes those youngsters listen to...aint got nothing on my record player.
Just adapt and move on. And yes I text when I drive...LIKE CRAZY!!!
No accidents. :-P”
I think that we need more vigorous enforcement of our laws regarding mobile device use while driving, but what we really need, is a change of the culture. This behavior is dangerous and not OK! Please, do not text or use your cell phone while driving. Especially never do this infront of your children. Make sure that your kids know that you will not tolerate this activity.
1. The New York Times, July 27, 2009, In Study, Texting Lifts Crash Risk by Large Margin, By Matt Richtel
2. The New York Times, July 18, 2009, Drivers and Legislators Dismiss Cellphone Risks, By Matt Richtel