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Why Texting While Driving is So Bad

September 02, 2016

According to government statistics, more than 3,000 people were killed and more than 430,000 were injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers.

Smartphones now are everywhere. Americans send billions of texts every month, but when they do so when behind the wheel it can have disastrous and potentially life-altering results for everyone involved. If you don’t clearly understand the dangers of distracted driving, here’s what you should know.

Cell Phone Use While Driving Increases the Risk of an Accident

One out of 20 drivers use a cell phone when they’re in the car, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). However, doing so makes you four times more likely to get into an accident.

Hands-free cell phones aren’t any better. Research has shown that using these devices don’t increase driver safety significantly compared to handheld devices, according to AAA.

Why are neither of these devices safe while driving? For one, you’re distracted mentally. If you are carrying on a phone conversation you can’t fully pay attention to what’s in front of you. Experts call this “attention blindness,” which occurs when you don’t see something that’s clearly in your line of vision because you’re too focused on something else. Texting while driving is even worse. Your eyes are off the road for an average of five seconds every time you text, which reduces your reaction time in the event of an accident.

Teenagers are Increasingly Involved in Distracted Driving Accidents

Sixty percent of car accidents that involve teenagers happen when they are talking, texting or distracted while driving, according to AAA.

Working with researchers at the University of Iowa, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reviewed 2,200 videos from dashboard cameras leading up to car crashes. They found that in

12 percent of cases, talking, texting or using a cell phone contributed to the accident. Teens also were more likely to text or look at their cell phone, rather than hold a conversation with these devices, when the accidents occurred. More than 1,000 people die in teen-involved car accidents every year according to AAA, so it’s critical for parents to talk to their kids about the factors that jeopardize their safety.

Texting While Driving is Worse Than Road Rage

Texting while driving even may be worse than driving while emotional, according to one recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Houston and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

In the study, researchers instructed 59 volunteers to drive the same stretch of highway four times. They drove with no distractions on one occasion, a second time while being distracted with mentally challenging questions and a third time while they were asked emotionally charged questions. The fourth time they drove while texting. During the latter three drives, all the drivers were jumpy and uneasy behind the wheel. However, only texting put their safety risk — causing them to veer out of their lane or drive more recklessly. Researchers say this suggests texting affects hand-eye-coordination and a driver’s “sixth sense” that they need to have more control behind the wheel.

Bottom line? You have more awareness behind the wheel when you’re upset than you do when you’re looking at your cell phone.

Technology Can Help

Just as technology has made driving more fraught with distractions, it also can help us avoid things that take away our attention while driving.

There are several apps, including Cellcontrol and Live2Txt, that block texting while driving. Cellcontrol allows parents to install a device under their car’s dashboard and a companion app onto their child’s phone that blocks a teen from sending or receiving messages while driving. Live2Txt does the same thing. Just download the app and all incoming notifications, texts and calls will be silenced while you drive. There also are apps that help you drive safer. DriveMode, for example, converts all incoming text messages into audio.

But technology only can do so much. These apps help, but what’s even better is turning off your cell phone when you drive or placing it out of reach when you’re in the car. Doing so could significantly reduce your risk of an accident and keep you — and your fellow passengers and motorists — safe.