The Growing Issue of Texting While Driving

Most people know that talking on a cell phone while driving is an issue of concern for reasons of safety and auto insurance premiums. Many states have passed strict laws regarding what types of drivers are allowed to talk on a cell phone while driving, and what kinds of devices can be used to do so. Violating these laws can result in hefty financial penalties including fines and increased car insurance rates. Texting while driving can be just as bad, if not worse.

39 states have banned text messaging while driving, with an additional 5 of the remaining 11 banning it for novice drivers. Even in states where texting while driving is legal, drivers can be ticketed under distracted driving statutes if they are found to be paying too little attention to the road. Many of the states that normally allow some or all drivers to use handheld cell phones and text while driving have banned it within construction and school zones.

The US Department of Transportation says that texting is an especially dangerous form of distraction because it requires manual, visual, and cognitive attention. People take their hands off the wheel, their eyes off the road, and their minds off of the task of driving in order to compose, send, or read a text message. It takes an average of 4.6 seconds to send or receive a text, during which time a car going 55mph has traveled the length of a football field.

Texting is growing in popularity, with more texts sent each year than the one before for the last seven years running. Some statistics say that despite laws banning them from doing so in 44 states, 60% of teenage drivers have texted while driving. Back in 2009, Car and Driver Magazine tested how long it took drivers to brake while unimpaired, legally intoxicated or texting. Drivers who were texting took longer to brake than even those under the influence of alcohol.

As the problem has reached new heights and bans just don’t seem to be cutting it, the legal system has responded with harsher and harsher penalties. In June 2012, a teenager from Massachusetts was sentenced to two years in prison and lost his driver’s license for 15 years after being convicted of vehicular homicide caused by texting. The judge imposing the maximum sentence said that he hoped it served as a deterrent to others.

Even if a driver is lucky enough not to injure anyone in an accident caused by distracted driving, it can still have consequences. Car insurance premiums for drivers who have been cited for texting can rise quickly, due to the statistically serious nature of this infraction. In fact, auto insurance premiums as a whole have risen due to irresponsible cell phone use.

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