As harmless as it may seem to send a quick message saying that you'll be late for dinner, there is significant evidence showing that texting can kill. No, we're not talking about some elaborate scheme by a villain from the world of James Bond. We're talking about everyday people in everyday situations that are directly affected by SMS. This issue may be further exacerbated by the rising number of unlimited texting plans.
Dangers of SMS While Driving
Out of safety and consideration of the other drivers on the road, many people have decided to invest in various types of cell phone hands-free devices. This allows these drivers to continue making and receiving phone calls without having to reach for their phones or take their eyes off of the road. Whether it be a Bluetooth speakerphone or a wired headset, these can work wonders in reducing the number of accidents. Ideally, you shouldn't be talking on your phone at all, because the conversation can be incredibly distracting, but these hands-free devices offer the next best thing.
Unfortunately, wireless headsets and speakerphones do not address the problem of SMS behind the wheel. There are many inherent risks of text messaging while driving. Your eyes are necessarily taken off the road to compose that message, and worse yet, one or both of your hands are taken off of the steering wheel for an extended period of time.
A potentially fatal car accident only takes a split-second, so when you glance down at your mobile phone for several seconds to send a text message, you are not only endangering your own life, but also the other drivers on the road, as well as pedestrians. Striking a pedestrian at 30mph can, as you can imagine, cause quite a deal of harm. Yes, texting can kill.
Legal Ramifications Too
As if the issues of driving safety and cell phones weren't enough to deter you, there are also several laws on talking on cell phones while driving. Many of these laws concern handheld mobile phones, so they not only encompass regular voice calls, but also text messaging, mobile web surfing, and mobile e-mail.
The California cell phone law allows for the use of hands-free mobile phones (like using a Bluetooth headset), but it is not possible to send a text message using this strategy. It's not a big deal for a passenger to send an SMS while in the car, but under no circumstances should the driver do so. If you are caught doing so, you may be liable for fines, points, and other penalties.
Do note that everyone visiting California is bound to this law and not just its residents. Other states may have similar laws in place, recognizing that texting can kill and the government needs to protect its citizens from harm.
Texting Can Kill: Statistics
An article from February 2005 on LiveScience.com found a new study published by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. In this study, they discovered that 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries are caused by cell phone distration in the United States every year. These figures are probably on the conservative side, as mobile phone usage is continue to increase and, as such, it's reasonable to assume that the rate of texting while driving may have also increased. Based on these statistics, five people die in the United States every day from cell phone distraction.
Possibly of even greater concern, an Iowa study found that between 50 percent and 70 percent of cellular subscribers have used a cellular phone while driving. Furthermore, a study sponsored by AAA concluded that "all forms of cellular phone usage [including SMS] lead to significant increases in the establishment of non-response to highway-traffic situations and increase in time to respond."
As you can imagine, taking one or both hands off the wheel to type out a text message can further exacerbate these problems. Texting can kill, so just don't do it while driving.