Texting While Driving Now Leading Cause of Death for Teen Drivers
- Texting While Driving Likely Caused Fatality Of Jenison Student, Police Say
- Toddler Killed And Mother Injured By California Teen Texting While Driving
- Texas Couple Says Texting And Driving Led To Daughter’s Death
We see one headline after another, and we read about the death of someone’s son or daughter, or of someone’s mother or father, because someone was texting while driving. We hear the stories, we see the images, we know the dangers, and yet it still continues. Distracted driving comes in many forms, but making a call on a cell or texting while driving are the two high profile activities in distracted driving discussions. According to Distraction.gov, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) website on distracted driving, 3,331 people were killed because of it in 2011. That total is higher than those killed in 2010, even while overall traffic fatalities decreased in 2011. More and more people are dying because of distracted driving.
Distracted driving typically involves a visual, a manual, or a cognitive activity, or a combination of the three. Texting involves all three, making it one of the most dangerous activities to do while driving a car. In fact, a person texting while driving has a 23 times greater chance of being in a crash than driving while not distracted. A recently released study found that texting while driving is now the leading cause of death for teen drivers. 
It is not like these dangers are a surprise to us. In the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report, 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index, it was noted there is a general attitude by motorists of “do as I say, not as I do.” 80.7% of those surveyed said texting or emailing while driving is a very serious threat to public safety and 82.9% said it is completely unacceptable; yet 1/3 of those surveyed have read a text or an email and 1/4 have typed one. In other words, there seems to be the perception that individually, I can text and drive fine; but the other driver, that person is dangerous. That perception is absolutely wrong. We are all dangerous when we text while driving.
Put the Phone Down
So what do we do? How do we stop the carnage? First and foremost, individually, we have to put the phone down and drive. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But the hard part comes next; we have to leave it down or turn it off. In today’s society of quick responses by email, texting, phone calls, Facebook and tweets and all of the rest of the electronic networking, we have become habituated to staying connected and to see if we have any messages or need to respond to a friend or co-worker. It takes effort and conscious thought to remember it is more important to drive safely than to see if there is a message on the phone. It takes conscious thought to remember that our life, or another person’s life, is not worth the risk.
After setting the example, it’s time to become involved with our families and friends and share with them the importance of not texting and driving. Then we can be proactive in our communities. These are actually the easiest activities because of the wealth of resources available. www.Distraction.gov has a whole section on sharing the information or getting involved, whether it is for teens, parents, teachers, employers or community groups. With sample presentations, pledge forms not to text and drive, flyers, brochures, parent-teen driving contacts, sample employer policies, and even a campaign starter kit, the material can help anyone understand the issues and communicate it effectively to others.
It Can Wait
Another useful website is www.itcanwait.com. The campaign, “It Can Wait” was initially started and supported by AT&T. Now in addition to AT&T, it is backed by Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, and 200 other organizations. This summer the country’s four biggest cellphone companies plan to launch a joint advertising campaign around the message “It Can Wait” and to not text while driving. On this website, you can take the pledge to not text and drive or go further and get involved by downloading the activation kit, posters, or a variety of additional material.
The research is clear. Texting while driving is deadly. The answer is just as clear. It is time for all of us to understand the dangers and that they apply to each one of us, not just the other person. It is time for us to put the phone down and drive.
May 17, 2013
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s comments on Distracted Driving made during the U.S. Launch of Global Road Safety Week , May 8, 2013.
 Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, September 2009, FMCSA-RRR-09-042.
 Study: Texting while driving now leading cause of death for teen drivers, Newsday, May 8, 2013.
- Study: Texting And Driving Kills More Teens Annually Than Drinking And Driving (newyork.cbslocal.com)