Texting while driving: the new drunk driving
Texting and driving – and gadgets like iPods and GPS devices – are a public safety epidemic.
(Page 2 of 4)
And even where hand-held phone use in cars is banned – as it is in California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands – enforcement is difficult. One study observing New York drivers, for instance, showed that the law did little to reduce the number of drivers with phones to ears.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Moreover, some research suggests that Americans are actually addicted to their phones. Harvard University psychiatrist John Ratey and other researchers have found that the brain receives a rush when it processes a text message or ring – the same high a gambler feels when hitting the jackpot.
'DISTRACTED DRIVING' IS A CATCHALL TERM that can include all sorts of behavior behind the wheel, from eating to applying makeup to texting. A distracted driver has what psychologists call "inattention blindness" – the brain does not process what is physically within eyesight, such as a red light.
The movement against distracted driving has increasingly focused on what it considers a deadly mix of two American passions: the automobile and new technology.
"There are always going to be distractions," says David Teater, senior director of transportation strategic initiatives at the National Safety Council, whose 12-year-old son was killed in a crash caused by a driver on a cellphone. "But the advent of mobile electronic communication devices has really changed the game because they've become so phenomenally prolific in such a short period of time. We've been talking on the phone for 80 years. We've been driving 100 years. It's only recently that we've tried to combine the two."
Most drivers say they're not happy about sharing the road with others trying the new technology.
A 2009 AAA Foundation study found that 91.5 percent of drivers considered talking on the phone while driving a serious threat to their safety; 97 percent said it was completely unacceptable to send a text or e-mail while driving. But two-thirds of those people admitted talking on their own phones while driving, and 1 in 7 have texted while driving.
Similarly, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, in which data collectors observed drivers, estimated that 6 percent of drivers at any time are on the phone.