texting and driving
As smartphones get smarter, drivers are more easily distracted by their wizardry. Texting and driving at the same time is a bad habit that thousands of drivers pay for in fines and accidents (and higher car insurance premiums as a result).
Read on to find out who's doing it, who's fighting it, and why it's such a threat.
The risk: why texting and driving is especially dangerous
Texting and driving falls under a category of safety risks called distracted driving. Distracted driving covers any non-driving act that keeps drivers from safely operating their vehicles (including eating, fixing your hair, petting the dog, etc.).
Texting and driving is particularly hazardous because it involves a combination of all 3 forms of distracted driving (visual, manual, and cognitive), which means it not only impacts what we see, but also how we respond and the time needed to process what's happening before we can respond.
Think hands-free driving is the way to go? Recent research shows that any cell phone usage while driving, whether it's handheld or hands-free, impacts drivers' reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the legal limit of .08 percent.
The stats: texting and driving in the U.S.
In 2009 alone, almost 5,500 people were killed on U.S. roads and an estimated 448,000 were injured in crashes due to distracted driving. Cell phone distraction is suspected in 18 percent of those deaths.
Preoccupied teens are texting on the roadways
Drivers under the age of 20 make up the highest percentage of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cites distracted driving as the cause of 16 percent of fatal crashes involving drivers under the age of 20.
Distracted adults are texting even more
Texting and driving is far from teen-specific. Police reports show that in suspected cases of fatal distracted driving crashes, drivers age 30 to 39 are more likely to cite cell phone use as a distraction than any other age group, including teens.
Sources: Pew Research Center & NHTSA (PDF)
The law: states rush to address the danger
After a flurry of tragic accidents, state lawmakers hurried to tackle the problem. Many states have rushed to add cell phone/electronic device bans (or more rigorously enforce existing ones).
Source: Distraction.gov as of 2/2012
In addition to the above bans, several states have secondary laws, meaning drivers can be penalized if they're pulled over or cited for another infraction.
See the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) website for a complete and current list of distracted driving laws.
Texting and driving — a risk not worth taking
As technology becomes more sophisticated and more portable, the problem of texting and driving is here to stay.
Whether you're a young driver or have years of experience behind the wheel, keep in mind that texting while driving isn't worth the potential loss. Our humble advice? Pull over or wait to reach your destination before sending that next text message. It'll help you avoid accidents, and among other perks, that's something that can help keep your car insurance premium down.
Find out about the other main causes of distracted driving.
NHTSA 2009 Distracted Driving survey (PDF)
Read the full report on distracted driving.