The New York Times recently discussed the hot button issue of distracted driving on our nation’s highways. They state that lawmakers have already proposed 200 bills to curb distracted driving, and policy analysts expect to see dozens more in the coming months throughout the United States. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 19 states and the District of Oklahoma have banned texting while driving.
It is my opinion that Oklahoma should look at incorporating laws that ban texting while driving. As a personal injury attorney I have seen real life scenarios where texting while driving causes a driver to divert their attention from the roadway resulting in sometimes catastrophic collisions.
Currently, I am aware of proposed legislation and/or movements in Oklahoma that would ban texting, ban texting and require all phone usage to be conducted with a hands free device and even a movement to ban any usage of a cell phone in a motor vehicle. While I currently can’t support legislation that would penalize talking on the cell phone while driving, I think the current state of science supports a ban on texting.
For example, a study in the journal Human Factors discussed in Science Daily provides validation that texting is far riskier than talking on a cell phone or with another passenger. In summation, the article states that
Human factors/ergonomics researchers at the University of Utah found that texters in a driving simulator had more crashes, responded more slowly to brake lights on cars in front of them, and showed impairment in forward and lateral control than did drivers who talked on a cell phone while driving or drove without texting.
The article further details the basis of their opinions
Researchers Frank Drews and colleagues found evidence that attention patterns differ for drivers who text versus those who converse on a cell phone. In the latter case, the researchers say, “drivers apparently attempt to divide attention between a phone conversation and driving, adjusting the processing priority of the two activities depending on task demands.” But texting requires drivers to switch their attention from one task to the other. When such attention-switching occurs as drivers compose, read, or receive a text, their overall reaction times are substantially slower than when they’re engaged in a phone conversation. The type of texting activity also appears to make a difference; in this study, reading messages affected braking times more than did composing them.
The crash risk attributable to texting is substantial. One possible explanation is that drivers who text tend to decrease their minimum following distance and also experience delayed reaction time. For example, in the Drews et al. study, drivers’ median reaction time increased by 30% when they were texting and 9% when they talked on the phone, compared with their performance in a driving-only condition.
Once again, science has validated that texting while driving substantially increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident.