The next time you take a road trip, you will likely see a few roadside memorials for individuals that have died as a result of automobile accidents. Some of the accidents occurred because of drunk driving, a crime that often claims innocent victims. Organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against Drunk Driving work hard to raise awareness on the dangers of driving while intoxicated. Their rage is more than justified as one death from drunk driving is one too many. While driving drunk is a hazard, there is a threat that is more widespread and dangerous than driving while intoxicated; texting and driving.
In 2009, CNBC’s Phil LeBeau cited a Car and Driver test that revealed the following findings in regards to braking:
- Unimpaired: .54 seconds to brake
- Legally drunk: add 4 feet
- Reading e-mail: add 36 feet
- Sending a text: add 70 feet
Additionally, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted and sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind”. Furthermore, a Carnegie Mellon University study revealed that cell phone use while driving reduces the brain’s focus on driving by 37%. Such statistics clearly indicate that texting and driving is a high risk behavior with potentially disastrous consequences.
If you drive on a regularly basis, you probably encounter distracted drivers on a daily basis. Whether it is the person on their cell phone driving at a slow rate in the passing lane or the person texting and crossing the yellow line, you have likely witnessed the risks of cell phone use while driving.
Most states have enacted laws that ban cell phone use while driving, however, most penalties are not an effective deterrent. The majority of fines are in the $50-$150 range and classified as summary offenses. In Utah, the crime constitutes a misdemeanor.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has pushed for a federal ban on texting while driving. Given the slap on the wrist nature of state laws, it is time for the Federal Government to step in. Texting while driving is a widespread public safety hazard. It is almost as dangerous if not more dangerous than drunk driving yet it receives little attention from the public at large. Where is the rage? It is time for action. The next time that you get behind the wheel, put down the phone; the texts are not that important. Really.