It comes as no surprise that automobile accidents are often the result of driver error. Driver inattention is a leading factor in crashes with cell phones and texting providing some of the most common distractions. In January, The Washington Post reported that 28% of accidents involve talking and texting on cell phones. Many drivers mistakenly believe that they can safely drive and text or talk at the same time, not realizing that their reaction time is typically substantially worse than that of a drunk driver. In a study conducted by Car and Driver Magazine, results showed the following reaction times for drivers on a straight road without any traffic, road signals, or pedestrians:
- Unimpaired driver: 0.54 seconds to brake
- Legally drunk (0.08 BAC): add 7’ extra distance traveled at 35 mph and 4’ at 70 mph
- Reading e-mail: add 45’ extra distance traveled at 35 mph and 36’ at 70 mph
- Sending a text message: add 41’ extra distance traveled at 35 mph and 70’ at 70 mph
In response, many state legislatures have enacted laws to ban cell phone use or texting while driving. However, these bans vary from state to state. Some distinguish handheld cell phone use or texting by all drivers from certain groups like teenagers and school bus drivers. States are passing texting bans for all drivers at a rapid pace. You can check the status of texting and handheld cell phone bans in your own state at the Governors Highway Safety Association website.
Even with bans in place, law enforcement will undoubtedly have a difficult time catching offenders. Drivers can text with their phones out of plain sight, making it difficult for police to see the act taking place. Despite the increased level of impairment, many drivers do not recognize texting and cell phone use while driving as dangerous and reckless activity. Whether or not your state specifically bans cell phone use or texting while driving, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind the next time you feel the urge to check your e-mail or send a text from behind the wheel.