Texting and Driving: The New Drinking and Driving

By Raven Heroux, Editorial Intern

We’ve all heard about the dangers of drinking and driving, but did you know that texting and driving can be just as dangerous? How many times have you joked around with your friends about being unable to walk and text at the same time without bumping into others or tripping? If it’s difficult to walk and text it should be obvious that it is much more difficult to drive and text. Using a cell phone while driving, whether you are calling, talking, or texting, delays your reaction time the same amount as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit (University of Utah, 2009).

Driving is already hard enough when you’re new to being in the driver’s seat and on the road; adding distractions such as alcohol, phone calls, and/or texts does not make it any easier. Driving in bad weather (snow, rain, sleet, etc.) or in the dark creates especially challenging environments when all senses need to be fully alert. Although many teens believe that they are fully capable of staying alert when drinking and driving, or texting and driving, the number of accidents due to distractions is increasing (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Study and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Study, 2007).

The good news: The number of alcohol-related car crashes is decreasing.

The bad news: The number of young adult car crashes does not seem to be decreasing.

The problem: Texting and driving accidents are increasing, replacing the drinking-and-driving-related crashes.

Sitting in traffic is boring, yes, and maybe you “only text at stop lights,” but the temptation to answer a text while driving may be too much, and that’s where the problem lies. Even if you are the only one on the road, that doesn’t make it OK, because you can easily swerve off the road and get a little too friendly with a tree or telephone pole.

No one wants to listen to the “driving safety” speech parents and other adults give, but they need to. And this concern/article about texting isn’t your typical “be careful!” speech. This is a BIG problem—big enough to warrant a campaign, all in the name of texting and driving! Campaigns against drinking and driving have been around for many years, thanks to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), which has worked to stop drunk driving since the 1980s. MADD suggested a solution that’s become widespread: assign a “designated driver” if you want to drink heavily and/or find yourself unable to drive.

LIkewise, the new “Stop the Wrecks. Stop the Texts” campaign implores you to get a “designated texter”! If you are driving with a friend, there is no reason for you to be texting as well. Drinking and texting are two serious issues that young adults partake in while driving, and neither is safer than the other. With new distractions like cell phones, it is important to see the underlying message in both campaigns: Be safe!

According to a 2008 study at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University, “Brain power used while driving decreases by 40% when a driver listens to conversation or music.” Forty percent—and your eyes are still on the road for this! Imagine NOT looking at the road. Your peripherals might be useful when trying to find your friends at lunch, but they aren’t going to be as useful when driving, whether you are looking at your phone or inebriated.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a hand-held or hands-free cell phone; distractions of any kind can decrease your reaction time, and sometimes, a fraction of a second is all that matters. According to the Ad Council campaign, Stop the Wrecks. Stop the Texts.: “Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field.”

Did You Know?

  1. Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes) (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—NHTSA, 2009).
  2. The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group. 16% of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving (NHTSA, 2009).
  3. 22% of teens who drive while distracted say it makes driving less boring (AAA and Seventeenmagazine, 2010).
  4. 21% of teens who drive while distracted say they’re used to being connected to people all the time (AAA and Seventeenmagazine, 2010).
  5. While more than 90% of teen drivers say they don’t drink and drive, 9 out of 10 say they’ve seen passengers distracting the driver, or drivers using cell phones (National Teen Driver Survey, 2006).
  6. A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver. (Virgina Tech Transportation Institute—VTTI, 2009).
  7. 36% of teens say they have been involved in a near-crash because of their own or someone else’s distracted driving (Pew Research Center, 2010).

Next time you try to text “C U in 5!” to your friend, make sure you’re actually going to see them.

Stop the Wrecks. Stop the Texts.has several websites that you can check out for more information, including Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and a campaign toolkit on their main site. Click to find out what you can do to spread the word!

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One response to “Texting and Driving: The New Drinking and Driving

  1. It’s true! It’s Just as dangerous! And how many of us can ignore that text sound/vibration.. it really is too tempting. Mine’s usually on silent while driving and luckily I usually have a designated texter with me so the temptation is mostly removed completely.

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