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Texting & Driving: Is It Really Worth the Risk?

Growing up, I remember the American Express Card television commercials that reminded us, “Don’t leave home without it.” We could use the same analogy today with a device that most of us have—our cell phones.

It doesn’t seem to matter if we are teenagers off to school or managers of a successful company; the one device we must all have to stay connected is the cell phone. When cell phones or car phones first came on the market, they came in a case about the size of today’s laptop computer. But now we can easily slip them in our pockets to stay connected. Sending text messages is an easy way to send a quick note to a coworker about where to meet for lunch or remind our significant other to pick up a gallon of milk on the way home from work, but when is it safe to text?

According to the website, www.distraction.gov, there are three main processes that distract us while behind the wheel.

Manual
Taking your hands off the wheel is often done while driving. If we are trying to send a text message and drive, we are obviously taking our hands off the wheel, so the reminder from our drivers’ education teacher of keeping our hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel goes right out the window.

Visual
Taking your eyes off the road, looking to make sure you have sent a text to the correct person, or checking your spelling for only a few seconds force you to take your eyes off what is important, the road.

Cognitive
Taking your mind off driving can prove dangerous. If we are sending a text message while driving, our mind is shifted from the road and what is around us to what is on that little screen in our hands. In June 2011, over 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the U.S., up nearly 50% from June 2009. Of course, not all of these were sent while behind the wheel, but many of them were, and the number is increasing each year.

Sending or receiving a text forces a driver to take his or her eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. For most people, that is not a very long time, but in distance, it equals the length of a football field if driving 55 mph. Just imagine how many other cars could cut in front of you or how quickly a traffic light could change during a short 100 yards.

When we think of texting, we seem to focus more on teen drivers. About 40% of teens questioned after being involved in serious car accidents reported that the driver was distracted with 16% of distracted driving crashes involving drivers under the age of 20.

Unfortunately, it would be very difficult to totally eliminate car accidents, but there are things we can do to help reduce the hazards. Educating not only teen drivers but adult drivers about the dangers of texting and driving and strictly enforcing laws that are set in place that make it illegal to text and drive are just a few.

Many states like Illinois have a “primary law” that bans texting while driving and allows police officers to pull over a driver suspected of texting and driving without committing any other type of violation.

All Illinois drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. Illinois’ anti-texting law (625 ILCS 5/12-610.2) states that “A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to compose, send, or read an electronic message.” An electronic communication device refers to a wireless telephone, personal digital assistant, or a portable or mobile computer that’s used for the purpose of composing, reading, or sending an electronic message.

So I guess a question we can all ask ourselves is: Is the time we need to send that text really worth the risk, or should I say, a life?

Dan Brueggemann
Loss Control RepresentativeFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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