Oct 6, 2009

Death by texting

by Rachel Barker

For many Americans, cell phones have become second nature and part of our daily routines, even while we drive.

Last year, the Transportation Department found that car accidents involving distracted driving took nearly 6,000 lives and injured more than 515,000 were injured, according to a CBS article. These staggering figures are a sign to think twice before allowing ourselves to be distracted behind the wheel.

The texting risks outweigh the texting benefits when on the road.

In July, a New York tow truck driver hit a car and crashed into a swimming pool while texting on his cell phone, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2008, a commuter train’s operator allegedly failed to stop while distracted by his cell phone and crashed into a freight train, killing 25 people and leaving 135 injured, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Eighteen states have taken action and passed laws making it illegal to text while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Seven states and the District of Columbia have prohibited driving while talking on cell phones. In Virginia, texting while driving is a secondary offense for all drivers and a primary offense for school bus drivers — it is far more dangerous than most people realize.

“People who wouldn’t get drunk and drive somehow think it’s okay to text and drive — which is just as dangerous,” said Kristin Backstrom, a senior manager with the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, in an MSNBC article.
In July, the Virginia Tech University Transportation Institute found that when drivers of heavy trucks texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater, according to MSNBC.

“Dialing a cell phone and using or reaching for an electronic device increased risk of collision about six times in cars and trucks,” according to MSNBC.

Texting and driving is more dangerous than driving while under the influence, according to MSNBC.

As more people die in car accidents as a result of distracted driving, the Obama administration has felt the need to step in and prevent unnecessary fatalities. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood launched a two-day summit on Sept. 30, hosting over 200 attendees. The summit warned of dangers involved with distracted driving, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The summit also discussed legislation that was introduced in July, that “would require states to ban texting or e-mail by drivers of a moving vehicle or lose a quarter of their annual federal highway funding,” according to BBC News. This legislation would be greatly beneficial in preventing accidents due to cell phone-related issues.

LaHood spoke out against distracted drivers as a “menace to society.” He is determined to take action at the federal level to prevent further recklessness.

As multi-tasking has become second nature to us, we fail to think about the consequences involved in using cell phones while driving.

Contact Rachel Barker at rebarker@liberty.edu

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