As mobile devices become more popular and as more people send regular texts using these devices, the role of texting while driving becomes an important issue. Many drivers today steer with their knees while typing, try texting with one hand, or text while stopped at red lights. According to experts, no matter how drivers text, texting behind the wheel is a major distraction that can lead to car accidents and the resultant personal injuries and fatalities.
While any driver distraction can lead to car accidents, there is some evidence that texting is especially dangerous on the road. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted a study into the subject and found that drivers who text have a 23 times greater than collision risk than drivers who are not texting. The study was the first comprehensive study of the role of texting on the roads. The study was also the first research initiative that tested texting in real-world driving scenarios, which gave researchers a more precise view of the true impact of texting.
Although many drivers are aware that texting may not be a safe behaviour, many drivers continue to text behind the wheel. Despite the dangers, texting while driving seems common. A Harris Interactive/Intel survey found that 28% of adults report that they text and drive. Another and 8% of drivers admitted that they text and drive regularly or often.
Some experts claim that only a federal ban on texting and stiff fines would compel drivers to give up their mobile devices. It seems that we are simply too reliant on mobile devices, even sacrificing safety and common sense to stay in touch. Rep. Doug Holder of Sarasota has been trying to pass a bill that would make it illegal to send texts or read a mobile device while driving. His efforts have spanned three years but no such bill has yet been passed.
If the cell phone debate is any indication, however, texting will likely not be banned soon. A 1997 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that drivers using cell phones had a quadrupled chance of being in a collision than drivers not using cell phones. A 2003 study out of Harvard concluded that cell phones were responsible for 636,000 car accidents, 2,600 car fatalities, 330 000 personal injuries, and $43 billion in costs. Despite these long-term studies, cell phones are not banned in most states – most drivers can talk and drive. There is no federal ban on cell phones behind the wheel.
Many drivers who cause injuries or property damage while texting are given minimal penalties. Some are charged with careless driving, which carries only small penalties and no criminal charges. So far, only fourteen states have made it illegal to send texts while driving. Florida is not one of the fourteen.