In 41 states and the District of Columbia, texting while driving is banned for all drivers, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it. Neither does the fact that distracted driving killed3,331 people in 2011. Of course, distracted driving covers a wide variety of behaviors, but when you consider that between660,000 and800,000 people are driving and using their phones simultaneously at any given time during the day (according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration), it’s clear that texting while driving is a primary cause.
Texting is such a prevalent part of our daily lives that in the year 2011, 171.3 billion text messages were sent in the United States alone. It’s because it’s such a commonplace action that texting seems like a harmless, innocuous task. Most of the time, it is harmless, but that’s just not the case when it comes to texting and driving.
According to the NHTSA, texting while driving is so dangerous because it distracts the driver in three primary ways: visually, manually and cognitively. Their research shows that when a driver reads or sends a text their eyes are off the road for an average of4.6 seconds. At a speed of 55 MPH, that’s the distance of a football field. Can you be certain that there will be no hazards on the road in front of you for120 yards (360 feet)? No, of course not. No one can, which is why you should always pull to the side of the road before texting.
Of course, you don’t have to be driving 55 MPH to severely injure or kill someone. According to an in depth study done by the insurance company AAA, the risk of severe injury to a pedestrian was25% at just 23 MPH, 50% at 31 MPH, and at 39 MPH they determined there is a 75% chance of causing severe injury to a pedestrian. Once speeds reached only 46 MPH, the risk of causing a severe injury increased to 90%.
What is considered to be a severe injury? AAA used anAIS score of 4+ to make the assessment. The Abbreviated Injury Score (AIS) is a standard scoring system used to assess the severity of injuries caused by car accidents. An AIS score of 4 or above is classified as a severe injury. An example of this would be a perforated trachea. For comparison, an open fracture of the humerus would only rate a score of 3 on the scale.
As far as the rate for fatalities is concerned, the risk of death to a pedestrian increased by25% at 32 MPH and jumped up to 50% at 42 MPH. At 58 MPH, there is a 90% chance that the pedestrian you hit will be killed. When you consider how easy it is to severely injure or kill someone with your car, is that text really worth it?
When we choose to take our eyes of the road, even for a few seconds, we risk everything. Lives are changed for the worse, and some are even taken, in a single moment of carelessness while driving. When you are driving, put your phone away. If you simply must send a text, pull over. The alternative can be fatal.