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Texting While Driving – Issue du Jour

10/07/2009

TextingDistracted driving has been making headlines across the country.  The phrase “texting while driving” has become the issue du jour and now seems almost as ubiquitous as “public option” or “financial meltdown”. Until recently, I never gave texting while driving much thought. With the Summit on Distracted Driving happening last week, I started thinking about this a bit more.

I’ve never considered myself coordinated enough to even think about texting while I am doing more than say, sitting in a traffic jam. I can’t think of anything more frustrating to try to attempt. With all the media attention I’ve begun to realize just how many people are distracted behind the wheel, and by more than just texting. 

How dangerous is distracted driving? The numbers are frightening. This White House blog post outlines some of the recent studies nicely:

  • Distraction from cell phone use while driving (hand held or hands free) delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (University of Utah)…
  • Nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. (NHTSA)

Approximately 26 states have enacted some type of legislation regarding the restriction of hand-held devices. The Insurance Institute on Highway Safety has an interactive map you can look at here. It does not appear that Massachusetts has enacted any form of restriction on hand-held devices. A bill was recently introduced to the US Senate that would require individual states to enact laws to Prohibit Texting While Driving or risk losing 25% of their Federal Highway monies.

And so begins the issue of how to react to a mounting public safety issue. The fact is the driving public is being called upon to take responsibility and focus on the road. Simply enacting legislation does not magically encourage everyone to take this personal responsibility.  But, awareness alone certainly doesn’t carry the same weight as a State Trooper’s blue lights in your rearview. In my opinion, adding legitimacy to an awareness campaign is where some of this legislation is useful. 

I was encouraged by the closing remarks at the Summit:

… we cannot simply legislate this problem away. If we’re going to improve road safety in this country, we’re going to need our drivers to use common sense and show some consideration for other drivers and their passengers, for pedestrians, and for bicyclists.

By this time next year, every driver in America should be far more aware of the risks and consequences of distracted driving. Driving while distracted should feel wrong–just as driving while intoxicated now feels wrong to most American drivers.

What can you do to help raise awareness about distracted driving?

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Additional Resources
US Secretary of Transportation Blog   
Insurance Institute of Highway Safety –Cell Phone Laws
Recent AAA Study report in Insurance Journal
Insurance Information Institute Blog  
AT&T Campaign to Educate Wireless Customers

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/08/2009 4:04 pm

    I work for AAA and just want to say thanks for mentioning AAA as a resource for your post, and for discussing this very important topic. Your readers can find more info about distracted driving here: http://bit.ly/1OjS7d.

    • 10/09/2009 9:51 am

      Thanks for stopping by the MAIA Blog. I was shocked at the numbers when reading some of these articles. Hopefully we’re helping to spread awareness.

  2. 10/22/2009 10:42 am

    Thanks for the article. Having a 16 year old daughter who has recently started to drive had this one hitting home!! I am constantly telling her how important it is not to use her cell phone when driving.
    I recently received the attached story/pictures regarding an accident caused by use of a cell phone. My daughter certainly got a copy of it (along with a little motherly reinforcement)and I thought you might like to see it as well!
    http://www.hudsonfire.org/cms/node/67

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