The Facts About Texting & Driving
By Diane TaitTexting while driving. We’ve either seen someone do it or have done it ourselves from time to time. While the practice is frowned upon to the point where it’s against the law in all 50 states, this doesn’t stop many motorists from looking away from the road while the car is in motion to send or receive a text. Instead of harping on the subject, I thought I’d give all my readers a few facts on this all too common and all too dangerous practice.
1. You’re never too old. – While most motorists believe that Millennials are largely to blame for the phenomenon, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration statistics say otherwise. While 14% of accidents caused by 16-20-year-olds involve the use of a cellphone while driving, drivers aged 21-24 were 2% more likely to be distracted by their smartphones and 25-34-year-olds were one percent higher still. Even 12% drivers aged 35-44 were using their phones at the time of the of an accident, while only 6% of drivers aged 45-54 found themselves in a similar situation.
2. Dead to rights or dead wrong? – While many motorists consider it their God given right to either talk or text while driving, when it comes to fatal accidents, cellphone use was an all too common occurrence. According to the NHTSA, 37% of fatal accidents in 2019 involving drivers aged 20-29 were caused by distracted drivers who were using their cellphones at the time of the crash. Only drivers over the age of 50 had less than a one in ten probability of being on the phone when they were involved in a car crash.
3. Teens top the list. – I’m sure it comes as no surprise that 52% of fatalities involving distracted teen drivers were other teenagers, many of whom were in the same vehicle.
4. Who’s driving the bus? – While there are a hundred excuses for texting, what many motorists fail to understand is that even if they aren’t involved in an accident, the act of texting while driving can cause harm to those around them. Taking your eyes off the road for even an instant makes you unaware of what ‘s going on around you. Many people who text and drive navigate slower and more erratically, being unable to keep up with traffic or stay in their lane. What’s even more alarming is that drivers who routinely text while they drive report that this habit has no effect on their driving ability.
5. Is it against the law? – While some states permit drivers to talk on their phones while driving, virtually every state in the Union makes texting while driving illegal. Still, that doesn’t stop some motorists, even if they see a police car. Only 8% of those who saw a cop car reported they stopped texting while on the road. Gridlock apparently made more of a dent in the habit, since 18% of those who routinely text while driving stated that they stopped doing so in stop and go traffic. Even in bad weather, less than 40% of drivers who made it a habit to text while driving admitted to putting down their phones.
6. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. – Since distracted drivers injure or kill passengers in their own vehicle as well as those in other cars, it should come as no surprise that 80% of passengers surveyed admitted they felt unsafe if their driver was sending or reading a text message while driving. Of those, 71% of male passengers and 79% of female passengers reported they were very likely to intervene if their driver was texting.
7. The highway is no place to play bumper cars. – A 2018 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that texting while driving doubles your chances of having a traffic accident. It triples your chances of having a single-vehicle accident where your car drives off the road to hit a stationary object such as a tree, a sign or a parked car. The biggest danger is the seven-fold increase in the likelihood that someone who texts while driving will rear end another vehicle.
8. It all adds up. – Not only do the statistics on driving while texting add up to a sobering conclusion, so to do insurance rates which rise faster for those who have gotten a citation while driving while texting than those who have not. In fact, it’s become such a big problem that some insurance companies offer drivers who don’t text or talk while driving a discount on their premiums. To qualify, drivers must download an app that monitors their driving habits via their cellphones.
9. What can you do to prevent texting and driving? – While there are all too many ways to become distracted while behind the wheel, when it comes to talking or texting while on the road, your best bet is to put the phone out of sight while you drive. The second-best option is to pull over to read or send a text. Last but not least is to download an app like Android Auto that makes things like making or taking a call, navigating, changing stations and more a hands-free operation.
10. Tech talk – As technology increases, the onboard distractions are going to increase inside our vehicles. This can lead to sensory overload which in turn will make drivers attention ever more likely to wander from the road. Since it’s all but impossible to put the high tech genie back in the bottle, all I can tell you is that if you want to feel safe behind the wheel, you’re going to have to choose which is more important, your safety or yet another high tech bell and whistle. Only you can choose to limit the distractions to concentrate on getting safely from Point A to Point B. If not, the only thing that your smartphone will help you write is your epitaph.
Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance. To find out more about how you can save money on insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.