In July, two teenagers—19-year-old Elizabeth Chadwick and 18-year-old Jessica Weinfurtner—died in a car accident on Old Lincoln Highway. One reason for the accident? The driver was sending a text message while driving, according to the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office.
Texting while driving has become a national safe driving issue and one that deserve serious attention, particularly for teenage drivers. Despite the clear dangers that texting while driving represents, a full 48% of all teens ages 12-17 report being in a car while the driver was texting and 40% report being in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.
Texting while driving is considered “distracted driving”, just like other activities, such as talking on the phone while you’re driving, eating and drinking, putting on make-up, reading, or messing with radios and Mp3 players. According to statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving caused 20% of all injury crashes in 2009, and 18% of those crashes—or 995 crashes—involved a cell phone as the distraction. These accidents can be deadly, as the tragedy in July showed us. In 2009 alone, over 5,000 people were killed and 448,000 injured in accidents caused by distracted driving.
If those numbers aren’t convincing enough, perhaps these will help the numbers make more sense:
Drivers who use hand-held devices are FOUR TIMES as likely to get into a crash serious enough to injure them, and
Using a cell phone while driving, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. Driving while texting is equivalent to DRIVING DRUNK.
Both Iowa and Nebraska have laws that ban this type of dangerous driver behavior. It is time we start paying attention to those laws and put down our cell phones and other handheld devices when we’re behind the wheel. That text message or email can wait. Your life—and the lives of everyone on the road—is worth it.