Texting and Driving: Risky Business

By: Phyllis Class, RN, Executive Director, Allied Health CE at Gannett Education
Phyllis Class RN, Executive Director, Allied Health Continuing Education

Phyllis Class, RN

My friend’s 15-year- old son logged 9,000 text messages last month. Nine thousand. And in between sending and receiving these text messages, he’s been begging his dad to teach him to drive. I’m scared to death.

Needless to say, I’m not the only one who’s alarmed. Researchers at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York reported earlier this month that more teens now die from accidents caused by texting than those caused by drunk driving. If that’s not scary enough, another study published this month in Pediatrics showed that about half of teenage drivers text while driving. Those who do so are more likely to engage in other risky behaviors like not wearing their seat belts or drinking while driving.

But wait a minute. Teenagers aren’t the only distracted drivers on the road. Last weekend, we passed an adult driver on the Florida Turnpike who was scrolling or surfing on a smartphone. How often have you glanced over to see a driver whose eyes are glued to his cell phone?

The statistics are sobering. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3331 people were killed in 2011 in accidents involving distracted drivers. In 2010, nearly one in five accidents involved a distracted driver. And In 2011, 196 billion text messages were sent and received in the U.S., up nearly 50% from 2009. That’s right, I said BILLION!

Consider this for a moment: According to the Ad Council on Texting and Driving Prevention, a texting driver is 23 times more likely to have a car accident than a driver who’s not texting. The average text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds.

So what’s being done about this growing problem?

Florida just became the 40th state to ban texting while driving. However, it’ll be a secondary violation. In other words, an officer can’t pull you over for texting; you have to also be speeding or committing some other infraction. And the jury is still out on the effectiveness of these statutes.

A large cell phone company is weighing in on the issue. AT&T’s It Can Wait ® campaign asks people to take the following pledge:  “No text message, email, web site or video is worth the risk of endangering my life or the lives of others on the road. I pledge to never text and drive and will take action to educate others about the dangers of texting and driving.”

No law or pledge can make people stop this dangerous behavior, but they’re a start. Perhaps the best thing you can do to stop people from texting and driving is to set a good example. Teach your kids not to text and drive and don’t do it yourself. Ever!

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