Underestimating the risks of text messaging while driving isn't just foolish; it's also potentially deadly. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 421,000 people in the United States were injured and 3,328 were killed in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted driving during 2012.
Four Important Texting and Driving Risks
Avoid becoming the next victim of a texting-related vehicle accident by educating yourself now about the risks of texting and driving.
1. Multitasking While Driving
According to a 2009 Nielsen study cited by O Magazine, 77 percent of respondents admitted to texting or sending mobile e-mail while driving. That's a staggering number of people trying to practice the art of multitasking while performing one of the most risky tasks on Earth: driving. What most folks fail to realize, however, is that their brains aren't built to handle two tasks at once.
In the O Magazine article, neuroscientist René Marois, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville is quoted as saying, "Despite employing 100 billion neurons to process information at rates as high as 1,000 times a second, the human brain has a crippling inability to do two tasks at once." The bottom line is that you should reserve multitasking for when you're at the office and leave it completely out of your driving habits.
2. Taking Your Eyes Off The Road
A study conducted in 2011 by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that heavy-truck drivers who send and receive text messages while on the road face a 23 times greater risk of crashing than those who do not engage in texting while driving. More importantly, the research suggested that there's a dramatic difference between texting versus merely talking and listening to another passenger or someone on the phone.
"Talking/listening to a cell phone allowed drivers to maintain eyes on the road and were not associated with an increased safety risk to nearly the same degree," a spokesman for the Institute reported. The point is simply that text messaging forces you to refocus your eyes on your phone instead of the road.
3. Steering With One Hand
Sending or replying to a text requires that you remove at least one hand from the steering wheel so that you can grip your phone and thumb in a reply. So not only are you multitasking and unfocusing your eyes from the road, but you're also trying to deftly use your phone with one hand while at the same time steer your vehicle. While this may seem doable or even trivial, keep in mind that a study by the Transport Research Laboratory measured steering control among drivers who text to be 91 percent worse that among other drivers.
A senior researcher with TRL explained, saying, "When texting, drivers are distracted by taking their hand off the wheel to use their phone, by trying to read small text on the phone display and by thinking about how to write their message. This combination of factors resulted in the impairments to reaction time and vehicle control that place the driver at a greater risk than having consumed alcohol to the legal limit for driving."
The premise here is that, though text messaging while driving may seem simple enough, it's in fact a lot more complicated and risky than you realize.
4. Don't Text and Drive
Ideally, you should under no circumstance ever send or receive a text message while you are driving, even if you are temporarily stopped at a red light. If a situation arises that demands you send an emergency SMS, at least pull to the side of the road. This isn't only for safety; it's also for the safety of everybody else.
Consider the tragic story of Emy Brochu, a talented 20-year-old who lost her life on January 18 because, while texting loving messages to her boyfriend, her car accidentally crashed into a tractor-trailer that was merging into traffic. Don't let yourself be the next victim.
Driving Is a Privilege, Not A Right
Many people erroneously believe that everyone automatically has the right to drive. Remember that it's a privilege earned by proving that you're a responsible citizen who'll exercise intelligent judgment while on the road. With this in mind, think carefully before you decide to send or receive a text message while driving. Ask yourself one simple question: "Is it worth putting the lives of my passengers, other drivers and myself at risk so I can send a text message?"