Time to put brakes on texting & driving epidemic

text and driveeditors-blog-entry3We at SolarChargedDriving.Com are very much for safe driving and therefore very much against texting and surfing while driving. There are plenty of sobering stats to show that texting or surfing while driving is incredibly dangerous and that we, in the U.S., are in the midst of a distracted driving epidemic, the proportions of which we’ve never seen.

Take the nearly 200 billion text messages sent or received last year in the month of June alone in the U.S. and you get the picture.

Not only is texting while driving a qualitatively different form of distraction than, say, talking to someone next to you in the car, it’s quantitatively different than, for example, putting on make-up while driving.

It’s hard to imagine anyone applying make-up hundreds of times a day while driving. In contrast, there are surely thousands and thousands who send and receive hundreds of texts a day while driving.

Here are some more sobering stats — all from reliable sources – posted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s to a web page devoted to combating distracted driving, distraction.gov:

  • Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. (VTTI)
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent — at 55 mph — of driving the length of an entire football field, blind. (VTTI)
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, and an estimated 448,000 were injured. (NHTSA)
  • 16% of fatal crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA)
  • 20% of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA)
  • In the month of June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the US, up nearly 50% from June 2009. (CTIA)
  • Teen drivers are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. In 2009, 16% of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted. (NHTSA)
  • 40% of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger. (Pew)
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Monash University)
  • Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use. (VTTI)
  • Using a cell phone while driving – whether it’s hand-held or hands-free delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (University of Utah)
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%. (Carnegie Mellon)

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We happen to believe that driving while “phoning” is also dangerous, as the statistics above attest. But we’re realistic too: Thanks to the fact that hundreds of millions of Americans have become accustomed to “phoning” while driving, most of them aren’t ever going to give it up despite the clear evidence that it poses a risk. In fact, we’re sure a hefty percentage of these folks now believe it’s their God-given right to drive while on a cell phone.

It’s exactly because habits are hard to break that it’s so crucial we stem the texting and surfing while driving epidemic now. Wait another 10 or 20 years and 50 percent, or more, of drivers will likely believe it’s their God-given right to text and surf while driving.

Sadly, to us, it seems as if the only real solution to the texting and driving epidemic – we can’t recall the last time we covered the 10 miles to work without seeing at least several people texting while driving — is computer-driven cars. That’s because it increasingly appears that the real distraction for many, especially for younger drivers, isn’t hand-held wireless communication devices, it’s driving itself!

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