I don't text. In fact, I have never sent a text message – ever. Shocking, I know. Am I the only person above the age of 4 and below the age of 80 who can make that statement? Probably. I don't even have a fancy schmancy phone. I have whatever model happens to be the free phone at the time I go in to get a new phone. You know, the kind that is just a phone. Seriously. And I am happy with that. To say that I am not tech savvy is an understatement, but I have been on a crash course of learning everything I can about the technology of social media since January when I hatched the idea of this blogging venture. In fact, I am pretty impressed with what I have learned, so far. I still have miles and miles to go, but it's a start.
I don't text. In fact, I have never sent a text message – ever. Shocking, I know. Am I the only person above the age of 4 and below the age of 80 who can make that statement? Probably. I don't even have a fancy schmancy phone. I have whatever model happens to be the free phone at the time I go in to get a new phone. You know, the kind that is just a phone. Seriously. And I am happy with that.
To say that I am not tech savvy is an understatement, but I have been on a crash course of learning everything I can about the technology of social media since January when I hatched the idea of this blogging venture. In fact, I am pretty impressed with what I have learned, so far. I still have miles and miles to go, but it's a start.
Regardless of my disinterest with texting, the rest of the world seems to be enamored with the idea of constantly communicating with multiple people at the same time without actually having to pick up a phone, talk face-to-face or sit in front of a computer. The act of texting is all well and good (I will spare you my commentary on the demise of social skills and what this means for communication abilities for the coming generations) except when someone does so while operating a vehicle.
The act of texting then becomes a crime in many jurisdictions. Studies have shown that the mind can't multi-task in a way that gives sufficient attention to each of the two or more activities being done simultaneously. This certainly applies to texting and driving, which amounts to driving while distracted. Some authorities on this subject are calling this combination more dangerous than driving while intoxicated – and that scares me.
In July of 2009, Virginia Tech's Transportation Institute published a study based on texting done by truckers. In this study Virginia Tech looked at 4,452 "safety critical events," which included 21 crashes, 197 near crashes and approximately 4,200 other events, such as unintentional lane changes. They found that when truckers text they are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or close call.
This study further found that texting drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds. For example, if the texting driver is going 55 mph, he or she is traveling the length of a football field, end zone to end zone, without looking at the road. To me that visual is astounding and disturbing. A lot can happen on the road in that time and distance, whether you are driving on the highway, major thoroughfare or city street.
Another study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published in Feb. of 2010, surveyed 1,219 drivers 18 and older. The Institute found that texting is more common among younger drivers, which is not surprising to me. The part that is unexpected is that only 13% of drivers surveyed report texting while driving. Of that 13%, 37% were ages 18 to 24.
Interestingly, this survey shows that most drivers that text while driving are not discouraged by the laws banning texting while driving. Again, age played a part in the findings. The younger drivers, ages 18 to 24, reported 45% texting while driving in states where it is illegal to do so, and almost 48% of drivers in this age group reported texting in states without laws banning the practice; drivers ages 25 to 29, 40% reported texting in states where it is banned, while 55% say they text while driving in states without laws regulating this practice; for drivers ages 30 to 59 the numbers don't change.
Regardless of whether there is a law in place or not, 12% of these drivers text while driving. According to these findings, it does not make much difference whether or not there is a law banning texting while driving or not. It would seem that if someone wants to text while driving he or she will do so regardless of the consequences.
Equally as telling, the survey from IIHS found that many drivers are not clear on whether their state has a law on this topic or not. In states with a law banning all drivers from texting, 48% of those surveyed believed there was no law or were unsure.
While this number seems quite high, I have to admit I was unaware that Minnesota had a texting ban until doing the research for this post. How many of you can answer this question with certainty regarding your home state (that is, without skipping down below to the table provided)? Even more astonishing is that a number of those that knew there was a law in their state barring texting for all drivers did not think that officers consistently enforce those laws.
There are 30 states, including the District of Columbia, with laws banning texting while driving to some extent. What this means is that some states have total bans for all drivers, others restrict only those drivers with permits, drivers of certain ages or professions (such as bus drivers). See Table below to check for your state. The Federal government recently passed legislation that bars truck drivers and bus drivers from texting while driving.
An additional four states: Georgia, South Carolina, Massachusetts and Wisconsin have pending legislation at this time. This means that bills restricting texting while driving have been presented in the state legislature, but have not yet passed in the House of Representatives and/or Senate in that state and/or have yet to be signed by the Governor of that state.
Click here fo State Cell Phones and Texting Laws.
I would like to point out that even though many states restrict all drivers or restrict only certain drivers, if you have questions about the law in your state, please do some research and find your particular state's law and read it. The wording, exact restrictions and penalties vary from state to state. On Wednesday, I will provide you with several Web sites that will help you to find your state law(s).
It seems that regardless of whether one texts while driving or not, it is generally regarded as a dangerous habit. A survey done by Nationwide Insurance shows that 80% of the respondents support a ban on texting while driving. However, even though more than half of the states in this country have now passed full or partial bans many drivers continue to text.
In fact, drivers tend to text when traffic is heaviest during rush hours, with much starting and stopping. Studies further show that few of the texts drivers send while on the road are work-related or even pressing business (not that the importance of the text matters) , instead most are of the social nature.
What bothers me about this subject is that whether I text is irrelevant. I could be hit by a vehicle in which the driver is distracted by his or her texting. This practice endangers the lives of everyone. It is the responsibility of all of us to bring awareness to these hazards and remind your spouses, teenagers, friends, etc not to text while driving. There is no text message that is worth more than life.
On Wednesday, I will post tips on new technology that can help you, your employees, teens, etc to control the urge to text while driving and two Web sites: one with state law information; and the other whose mission it is to provide awareness about the dangers of texting recklessly. Over and out….
Maybe one day I will feel the urge to send a text. Maybe I will find it necessary as a mode of communication to "speak" to my boys once they enter their teenage years. Or maybe not. My friends are still reeling from finding me on Facebook and Twitter, let alone writing a blog.