When most of us heard about the recent death of celebrity plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Ryan due to texting while driving, we were saddened, but not surprised. Many of us thought that Twittering about a dog while navigating the sharp curves of a Malibu highway was an unfortunate way to go, but few of us could judge him considering how often we do it ourselves. A recent study revealed that 81 percent of drivers admit to texting while driving—and that’s just those who admit it.
Here are the facts:
- If you are driving 70 mph, you are traveling 100 feet per second. If you take the time to write a three-second text message, you can go the length of a football field without having looked at the road.
- Folks who text while driving are twenty-three times more likely to be in a crash than undistracted drivers.
- A study done by Car and Driver showed that texting while driving is even more dangerous than drinking while driving. You are six times more likely to get into a crash from texting and driving than from drinking and driving.
- MRI brain scans show that the area of the brain that controls spatial awareness is reduced by 37 percent when a driver uses a cell phone—texting while driving is even worse than talking.
Texting while driving is banned or will be banned in the following U.S. states—Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
That’s not even half the states in the nation.
Nowadays, anyone you ask would say that drunk driving is dangerous. People still do it, but no one would disagree that it’s one of the worst things you can do when behind the wheel. So, why does it seem like people are resistant to seeing texting while driving the same way? And why does the move to make texting while driving illegal seem to be progressing so slowly?
For better or for worse, things take time in America. If I asked you when drunk driving first became illegal in American states, what would you say? The 70s? The 60s? The 80s?
Actually, the first state to adopt laws against drunk driving was New York—in 1910! The first DUI arrest? In 1897!
It just took years of studies, activism from groups like MADD and SADD, and an unfortunate amount of traffic fatalities to convince the majority of Americans that drinking and driving was dangerous and should be outlawed. Up until the 1970s, drunk drivers were simply issued a traffic ticket and let go. It wasn’t until the 1980s that drunk driving started to be criminalized.
That said, people still drink and drive. They do it all the time. Every thirty-nine minutes, someone dies in a drunk driving-related accident. Three out of ten people will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives. According to MADD, a first time drunk driving offender has driven drunk eighty-seven times prior to being arrested.
And texting while driving is actually worse than drinking while driving!
Texting while driving is a huge problem in this country, one that is not going away. Even though 90 percent of us would support a ban on the practice, we all do it anyway. You can make a difference by not doing it yourself and by refusing to ride with people who do. Tell your teenagers that texting while driving is just as bad as drinking while driving. Take a pledge. Write your congressperson and ask for harsher penalties and laws. Order software (such as Textecution and TXTBlocker), which detects when a person is in a moving vehicle and prevents text messaging.
If writing or reading a text is too hard to resist, just pull over. It’s better to get to your destination five minutes late than not at all.