Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers, with many accidents caused by texting. However, it’s not only new drivers who are affected by this phenomenon, as drivers of all ages are prone to distractions, which points to a big reason why texting and driving is dangerous.
Until recently, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs was considered the most dangerous activity associated with driving, but the distractions that come with a mobile phone have proven to be even more deadly. Here’s why.
It’s a Distraction
The fact that texting is distracting is the most obvious reason. Over 50 percent of teens admit that they have engaged in texting while behind the wheel. About 75 percent of all drivers admit to glancing at their phones when behind the wheel.
In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicated that 3,477 people died while more than 391,000 people suffered injuries in crashes involving distracted drivers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) notes that 660,000 drivers use cell phones or otherwise manipulate electronic devices while driving. In addition, handheld cell phone use in vehicles is highest among drivers aged 16 to 24.
Texting takes your attention from the road because you focus on the text that you are sending or reading. Research suggests that most people typically take five to eight seconds to look at their screens instead of the road.
Drivers overwhelming realize that texting while driving is dangerous, and yet many still do it. Even worse is the fact that those who do text think they can multitask when in their cars, which leads to more erratic driving. When you are involved in a texting exchange, it’s easy to forget what you are doing. In the five seconds that it takes to look at your screen, you have already traveled the length of a football field and then some when riding at a speed of 55 mph.
It Requires the Use of Your Hands
Depending on your dexterity, you will need one or two hands to press the phone keys while texting. No matter how experienced you are with texting, you’ll end up taking your hands at least partially off the wheel, which makes it much harder to control your vehicle, especially when an emergency occurs. Keeping both hands on the wheel at all times is essential to maintaining control of your car.
It’s More Dangerous Than Driving Under the Influence
Texting while driving can actually make you 23 times more likely to cause an accident than if you operated a vehicle while intoxicated. According to a study performed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute drivers who texted were more likely to get into what they called a “safety-critical event.”
Other recent studies show that unimpaired drivers take .54 seconds to brake while driving 70 miles an hour. When drivers were legally drunk, their reaction time added four feet to how long it took to stop a vehicle. Reading an email added 36 feet, while sending a text added 70 feet. Texting severely slows down reaction time because of the distraction involved, while also making control of a vehicle very difficult.
Although the United States does not have a national law against texting while driving, many states have passed laws against doing so. The penalties for texting and driving vary by state, including the possibility of large fines, license suspension, prison time, and an increase in auto insurance rates.