Driving while texting can be fatal. Teens in particular don’t seem to get the message.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that drivers using hand-held devices such as cell phones are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
Researchers at the University of Utah have found that using a cell phone while driving, whether it's hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reaction time as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of the legal limit of .08 percent.
The National Safety Council reports that a crash caused by a driver using a cell phone occurs every 26 seconds.
And researchers at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers who were texting were 23 percent more likely to be involved in an accident.
Those statistics, from more than 50 research studies about the dangers of using cell phones while driving, haven't gone unnoticed. Thirty states and the District of Columbia now have laws that prohibit texting while driving. Nine states, including D.C., have hand-held cell phone driving bans.
Yet, a recent Allstate Foundation study found that although 49 percent of teens admit to be extremely distracted by driving and instant messaging while driving, 82 percent said they still use their phones when they are behind the wheel. In another study, this time by Nationwide Insurance, 21 percent of the respondents said they text while driving.
Messages as innocuous as "OMG," or "Where R U?" found posted on cell phones at the scene of car crashes throughout the country have rallied countless initiatives aimed to stop the texting.
The Department of Labor is joining with the Department of Transportation to fight distracted driving. Through the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the government is focusing on texting while driving. In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order banning texting while driving by federal employees while they are working.
Insurance companies have launched programs designed to educate their customers on the dangers of texting.
The Allstate Foundation and Channel One News, a TV news network for teens, sponsored a school competition earlier this year. Teens urged friends and families to take the pledge to "X the TXT," and the school with the most online pledges wins a concert by singer Ashlyne Huff during National Youth Traffic Safety Month in May.
The X the TXT program is promoted on a Facebook page (facebook.com/xthetxt), which features celebrity updates and a place to designate an in-car texter. Those who take the pledge can even order "TXTNG KLLS" thumb bands as a visual symbol of their dedication to text-free driving. Since the program was launched, more than 125,000 people have committed to the pledge.
"By harnessing the power of positive peer influence, these students are leading the charge against the texting epidemic to make roads safer now as well as for the next generation of drivers," says Joan Walker, Allstate spokeswoman.
Focus Driven, a group which advocates cell-free driving, is partnering with the National Safety Council to sponsor an "On the Road, Off the Phone" public service announcement contest, which will focus on cell phone usage.
Oprah Winfrey announced her own program last year with a "No Phone Zone" pledge on her web site.
And one of the most powerful campaigns has been launched by an unlikely source: cell phone provider AT&T.
AT&T has released an anti-texting documentary as a part of its "It Can Wait" campaign. The documentary, titled "The Last Text," features real-life interviews with victims, relatives and friends of victims and people who were responsible for killing someone while texting and driving. Since it was released, it has been viewed nearly 2 million times on You Tube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=DebhWD6ljZs), and was distributed to schools, government agencies and safety organizations.
© CTW Features