Texting and driving: a dangerous combination

By Brittany Roberts Smith-Cotton High School

December 31, 2013

Everyone knows that texting and driving is dangerous, but yet people still do it. It’s not just teens that text and drive, adults do it too.

Thirteen percent of drivers ages 18-20 admitted to texting or talking on their phones when they crashed. Smith-Cotton student Harliegh Tubbs said, “Yes I text and drive, I do it all the time.”

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, texting while driving kills 11 teens each day. An American Automobile Association poll stated 94 percent of teens called texting while driving a serious threat, but 35 percent admitted they still do it. With all these numbers, teens still don’t think that texting and driving together is a problem. Statistics show that 77 percent of teens said they are very or somewhat confident they can text while driving and 55 percent claim it’s easy to text and drive. But what teens don’t know is that 10 percent of their driving time is spent outside of their lane — that’s being careless drivers and being a danger to others on the road.

Now let’s get back to the adults because they are also to blame. Statistics say that 48 percent of kids ages from 12-17 have been in the car while the driver was texting. Another 48 percent of young drivers have said they have seen their parents driving while talking on their cell phone. Adults can soon realize that what they’re doing is wrong after they have been in a crash and caused harm to their children or someone else. Teens are more at risk because they are less experienced drivers; put a phone in front of them and it just makes their chances of getting in an accident and killing themselves or someone else higher.

According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, texting while driving causes a 400 percent increase in time spent with your eyes off the road. Texting and driving is not the only distraction out there for drivers on the road but because text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.

Research shows that many teens have tried to justify themselves by saying things like: reading a text is easier then composing and sending one, holding the phone near the windshield for “better visibility,” or texting only at a stop sign or stop light. Teens don’t understand that all of that is still causing a distraction, losing focus on the task at hand — driving. Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting, according to Traveling at least 55 mph for five seconds is enough to cover the length of a football field (2009, VTTI). A 2009 study by the University of Utah found that using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s handheld or hands-free, delays a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit at .08 percent.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the greatest proportion of distracted drivers is in the under-20 age group, and 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. With all these driving accidents and deaths happening because of texting and driving, people need to somehow get to teens and show them the dangers of what could happen if they choose to risk their lives by texting and driving.

There are some actions that have been taken toward this, including 10 states enacting laws prohibiting all drivers from using handheld cell phones. Also, 32 states have prohibited drivers from cell phone use and 39 states have prohibited all drivers from texting messaging. Missouri is not one of those states.

If teens are informed of all the things that could happen because of texting and driving, then they may become active and lead by example and stop doing it. Then maybe they can keep a life from ending because of a stupid distraction.