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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5 Responses to Texting and Driving: Risky Business

  1. Parents know when the kids have their car, and they pay for the cell in most cases, why not compare and the child loses privileges of both if caught- and STICK to it. Cell phone were not popular when my kids were young, but my rule would have been- Cell phone off while driving…..If the parents want immediate access at all times, they should download a specific ringtone for the parents with the rule that they return the call as SOON as they can pull over safely. The graduated license in some states limits passengers to 1 (except siblings) (and curfews) until 18 so they get more experience before so many distractions. Parents need to study the brain and explain how the brain “filters” and can make mistakes with too much going on at once. Between traffic, music, friends, phone, weather, poor or impaired other drivers, parents and students may be ignorant of how dangerous that ton of metal can be. Parents need to be sure to show new drivers photos and reports on fatal accidents or the state police fatality reports. In AR. during 2013, one half way through the year, I think it is already to 235 deaths on our roads. That should be attention-getting…That is almost 40 a month or greater than one a day in a small, rural state!

    • Nurse.com says:

      Well said, Pamela! Our thanks for your perspective on this important issue.

      • Great article. I whole heartedly agree that despite legislation, ultimately if a driver wants to text while driving they will still find a way to do so.

        I think the best way to combat this hazard is to fight fire with fire – or in this case technology with technology. There are services out there such as CellControl that essentially shut down a phone’s ability to text, web surf, email etc when it detects that the user is driving. I think that this, in conjunction with fines or demerits will ensure that the rates of texting and driving drop dramatically. It’s in embracing forward thinking like this that we can help keep our kids safe on the road.

  2. Sarah Mott says:

    Texting and driving is a very scary problem that affects every single one of us. I recently heard that law makers are considering a law that requires people to hand over their cell phone if they are involved in a car accident.

  3. gregg says:

    This is an excellent article in that it starts by highlighting a real life situation many parents today face, and then explores the dangers of texting while driving in terms we can all understand. there is a new thing that parents can buy for their teens called origosafe, it makes it so they have to put their phone in a dock in order to even start their car. I think this could help to prevent some of these accidents.

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