Don’t Text and Drive!

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The use of cell phones and texting while driving is emerging as one of the largest public threats with a rising death toll by the day. According to the CDC in 2009, more than 5,400 people died in crashes that involved a distracted driver with another 448,000 that were injured. Shockingly, 25% of US drivers admit to using handheld devices while driving. Even more astounding is in the younger demographics  with 52% of drivers between the ages of 18 to 29 texting or emailing at least once in the previous 30 days while driving.  According to the US Department of Transportation, a driver when he sends a text message takes his eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, which would be comparable to driving an entire football field at 55 mph blindfolded.


Many advocacy groups including Focus Driven and DATT, consisting of family and friends who have lost a loved one due to motor vehicle accidents while distracted, have joined forces to bring awareness to the need to ban handheld device use while driving. Even AT&T, one of the largest cell phone providers in the world, has launched a campaign “Take the Pledge” where they are asking people to pledge against texting while driving. The US Department of Transportation has even created a government website www.distraction.gov which advocates for laws banning cell phone use and text messaging while driving. The US Department of Labor also has identified motor vehicle accidents as the number one cause of deaths in the workplace. Even insurance companies, albeit likely due to the financial repercussions, are asking the government and drivers to take a stand against handheld device use while driving.


While states such as New York, California, and Ohio have made laws to ban handheld device use and texting while driving, this is simply not enough. Cell phone use while driving decreases brain activity by nearly 40%, and texting while driving causes a 400% increase in time not spent looking on the road.  It is imperative that the Federal government make a federal law that not only bans handheld device use while driving, but also enforces substantial fines with suspension of licenses to hopefully steer individuals away from the use of handheld devices while driving.

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6 Responses to “Don’t Text and Drive!”

  1. mcharles2 Says:

    In the past I have to admit to texting while driving, however it is a practice that I no longer do. As a working mom the time in the car used to be my time to catch up so I was constantly on the phone. I live in Pennsylvania which recently passed an anti-texting law. I now only use my hands-free device if I have to take a phone call (not very often). Other than that my phone stays in my purse (on silent). It was definitely a change that I had to make but to be honest it is nice to have time in my car just to decompress from the day. I am a strong supporter of anti-texting and hands-free device legislation. We do not need to answer every phone call and text message as soon as we recieve it 99% of messages can wait. I learned that once I stopped doing it.

  2. ksimon19 Says:

    I agree that distracted driving, and especially texting while driving, is becoming a huge public health issue. Driving and riding in vehicles is a part of almost everyone’s day-to-day activities, and addressing injuries due to car accidents, as you pointed out, can prevent death and injury of thousands of people each year. The texting while driving issue made me think of a parallel vehicle-safety issue: seat belts. For as long as I can remember, seat belts have been the norm and wearing them has been a widely accepted and implemented practice. But I know that when seat belts were first being installed in cars, they were not so largely used. I think it would be interesting to examine the tactics used to get people to wear seat belts, how it became a social norm, and see if any of the approaches used would be applicable to the texting-while-driving problem. Enacting anti-texting and hands-free device laws are a great start, though I think the social norms will be critical to achieve meaningful success. I find some people think I’m being paranoid or overly cautious when I chastise them for texting-while-driving, but most of them don’t think twice about using their seatbelt. So clearly the two safety measure are at different places in terms of their penetration into the social psyche.

    I’ve seen the AT&T texting-while-driving commercials on TVand while I think they do a good job of demonstrating how quickly one distracted moment can lead to a horrific outcome, the downside to some of these commercials is that many people who view them feel bad for the individuals who were hurt or killed, but also tend to disassociate themselves from that situation and think “that won’t happen to me.” So although these commercials are likely affecting some people who see them, and that is wonderful, I think it will take the presence of a more widespread social “taboo” around texting-while-driving in order for the behavior to change.

  3. dianachau Says:

    My brother suffered a motor vehicle accident from a driver that was not paying attention to the road and as a result, he is now paralyzed and unable to communicate. Here in Toronto Canada, they started ticketing those who text and drive, but it is funny how so many people still do not care about that. I could drive around my block and find at least 3-4 people texting or on the phone. Just the other day I was driving and looked over in the cop car and saw the cop texting himself. If law enforcements were not obeying the law, why would people stop themselves? There is no good role model to encourage people to stop texting and driving. Just the other day on the news I heard that someone was so busy texting that he fell into the subway line and thankfully people were able to pull him up before the train came. I think texting is a major issue not just for driving. Those who are texting and walking, not paying attention to what they are doing or when they are crossing could harm others around them as well. People could be carelessly crossing the street and texting without knowing that a car was approaching their way. The idea of making it a federal law to ban handheld device while driving is good, however I do not think that it would stop people from texting and driving. Something should be done with the phone companies to increase the cost of each text message to force people to stop texting…

  4. luiso76 Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with sentiment here. It took about 15-20 years from when the first laws requiring seat belts to be worn were passed, until it became a universal social norm. Hopefully, changes in acceptability of use of handheld devices will change quicker.

    Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the federal government would be able to pass a ban on use or enforce it through suspension of licenses, since that is a power given to the states (for example, New Hampshire still does not have a mandatory seat belt law). However, if a device were created that disabled handheld devices while the vehicle were in motion, the federal government could mandate those be installed in all vehicles. Alternatively, the federal government could withhold highway or other federal funds if states do not pass handheld laws (similar to drinking age laws and highway funds).

  5. cwtsai Says:

    In the era of smart phone, people use cellphone and text everywhere, even when they are driving. They are often distracted and car accident happened. However, there is no excuse for this. In fact, the deaths and injuries caused these accidents are 100 percent preventable. Therefore, each of us has an obligation to remind ourselves and people around us about the dangers of “ text and drive” and avoid it. I think legislation to ban handheld device use and texting while driving should be done. Besides, AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign to promote everyone to take a pledge to never Text and drive is another way to approach.

  6. sbf2012_jonf Says:

    Thanks for posting this very interesting article. I’m pleased to see that many jurisdictions have implemented distracted-driving legislation, but I also believe that increased resources need to be directed towards enforcement activities to give this legislation some teeth – e.g., people need to perceive the penalty as being swift and severe, with a high perceived probability of being caught.

    I’m also happy to see the substantial increase in awareness campaigns and public support for distracted-driving legislation. This helps to communicate the health risks of distracted driving, and enhance the effectiveness of legislation/enforcement activities. I think this also signals a broader shift in public perception and social norms towards distracted driving, which helps to influence behaviour change and acceptability of interventions and policies.

    As a proponent of passive interventions that provide automatic protection to the most at-risk groups (which may be harder to target with behavioural interventions – e.g., young drivers, or people driving under the influence), I’m curious to see what environmental or engineering changes will be developed in the coming decades. In the end, these will have to be acceptable to the public (seatbelt ignition lock systems didn’t last very long), dominate the marketplace, and require minimal individual effort.

    Either way, I’m hoping that legislation/enforcement will form a part of a comprehensive injury prevention strategy that targets individual behaviours, the physical and social environment, and national-policies through the use of health education, policy changes, environmental changes, manufacturer changes, and changes to social norms.

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