Texting while driving increased by 50 percent in 2010, according to a study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it has surely increased even more since then. We’ve heard about the dangers of texting while driving, but the statistics – and the lasting effects – are sobering.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, sending or reading text messages takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. In a car traveling 55 miles per hour, that’s equivalent to driving the length of an entire football field – with your eyes closed. Driving while texting increases the risk of a crash 23 fold, and using any handheld device quadruples it.
It’s even more of an issue for our less experienced teen drivers. Distracted driving is a key factor in about 11 percent of teen traffic fatalities. That’s 11 percent of teen fatalities that could be avoided by simply putting down the phone.
Texting and driving is only part of the equation. As attorneys working with accident victims, we all too often see the consequences of distracted driving. Most of the victims we represent have been injured due to the negligence of another. As long as people are texting while driving, everyone on the road is at risk.
So how do we reverse this trend? Popular opinion suggests that it will take a combination of education and legislation to reverse it. Realizing the risks is a beginning, but we’ve got to change our own behavior and that of all drivers on the road. Some 39 states have adopted laws against texting while driving, but South Carolina is not among them. South Carolina does have a broader “Distracted/Inattention” clause noted under its contributing factors provision. Therefore, drivers in this state should be equally aware that their texting could be found as a cause for negligence in an accident.
No one sets out to hurt another, or themselves. Nonetheless, it’s important to recognize that negligent behavior may lead to injury. Texting while driving is known to cause injury and death. Let’s put an end to unnecessary suffering and keep our eyes on the road. Like most things in life, the text can wait.
Published by the Summerville Journal Scene and the Goose Creek Gazette on Friday, September 21, 2012