Texting While Driving Causes Thousands of Deaths Annually

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By Jay Mascolo, Esq.

Texting-related Accident Incidents Are on the Rise

The National Safety Council estimates that 25% of all motor vehicle accidents are caused by texting while driving and that the rate is continuing to rise. There are more than 2,000 deaths annually linked to texting, and trucking accident lawyers warn that this is a widespread problem that crosses all professions, ages, genders and races. In response, many states, including New Jersey, now have a law that makes handheld phone use while driving illegal.

Texting While Driving Statistics

While texting while driving statistics vary depending on the organization compiling and analyzing the data, all published sources agree that it is the leading cause of car accidents and that it is getting worse. For the purposes of this discussion, we use NSC statistics. Established in 1913, it is the leading nonprofit safety advocate in the U.S. and highly regarded for the driving-related statistics that it publishes.

Cellphone use while driving causes 1.6 million accidents each year. Accidents directly linked to texting while driving result in nearly 390,000 injuries that require medical attention. One out of four accidents in the U.S. is attributed to texting while driving. That rate continues to trend up and is even higher if you expand the cause of the accidents to all forms of distracted driving. Of all cellphone activities linked to accidents, texting while driving is by far the most dangerous. Among Americans surveyed, 94% agree that there should be a ban on texting while driving, but only 74% agree that there should be a ban on handheld cellphone use.

Texting While Driving Laws

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, several states, along with Washington, D.C., have a full handheld ban, which means that outside of exemptions for law enforcement and first responders it is illegal to use your phone while holding it. Failure to comply can result in a fine for the initial offense and more serious penalties for subsequent infractions. There are a handful of states that have a partial handheld ban. It is generally limited to novice and intermediate drivers or enforced in specific areas, such as school zones. There is also a text messaging ban in 48 states plus D.C. Missouri and Montana are the only states where it is legal to text while driving.

Types of Distracted Driving

There are three core types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distraction is what most people associate with distracted driving. An example is taking your eyes off the road to look at a GPS device. Manual distraction is defined as not having both hands on the steering wheel in the appropriate positions, and common examples include drinking water and eating a sandwich. Cognitive distraction is the most dangerous type but perhaps the most overlooked. It occurs when you are no longer fully concentrating on operating the vehicle, such as listening to an audiobook.

Other distractions include:

  • Smoking a cigarette
  • Talking with passengers
  • Changing the radio station
  • Fishing for an object on the floor
  • Attending to children in the back seat

It is important to note that a distraction can be more than one type. In fact, among experts, texting while driving was widely regarded as the most dangerous form of distracted driving even before the statistics supported it because it involves all three types of distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive.

The Average Text Message Takes 5 Seconds to Read

On average, it takes 5 seconds to look at your phone, read a text and process it. Furthermore, that average does not go down significantly when the phone is mounted on the dashboard, and this is a leading reason that almost all states have banned texting while driving whether the device is handheld or not. Within the context of driving and having to process information in nanoseconds, 5 seconds is an eternity, and that span does not even account for the time it takes if you opt to respond to the text. To put this in another perspective, you can drive the length of a football field—360 feet—in 5 seconds, which is why it so easy to get into an accident while texting.

Texting Doubles Your Chances of an Accident

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers at red lights will reach for their cellphone 36% of the time, and 35% of those incidents will result in the driver continuing to use the device after the light has turned green and the vehicle has begun moving. This is one of the more concerning aspects of texting while driving. Most drivers agree that it is bad and do not purposefully do it, and yet, many of us continue to do it impulsively without really thinking about it. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that texting while driving doubles your chances of being in an accident. In fact, a majority of single-vehicle accidents are attributed to texting, and these incidents include:

  • Road departure
  • Hopping a curb
  • Hitting road signage
  • Crashing into roadside trees

Texting While Driving Is More Dangerous Than Driving While Impaired

One of the more eye-opening revelations in this discussion is that texting while driving leads to more accidents than driving while impaired. Note that the appropriate terminology does vary from state to state, such as driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated, and we are accounting for all of them for the purposes of this statistic. In fact, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute estimates that a person who texts while driving is six times more likely to get into an accident than a drunk driver. When texting while driving, you have a slower reaction time than a person driving intoxicated.

The Issues Are Exacerbated Among Teenagers

Earlier, we mentioned that texting-related accidents, injuries and deaths are a serious problem across all demographics, but it is most serious among teenage drivers, and there are a number of reasons for this. Teenage drivers are inexperienced. They are involved in more accidents than older drivers, and they tend to pay more for auto insurance because of it.

More than 50% of teens believe that they are addicted to their smartphones. More than 72% of teenage drivers admit to feeling a pressing need to respond to a text immediately. Many teens also feel that the authority figures in their lives, including parents and teachers, set a bad example when it comes to texting while driving. Fatal crashes are the leading cause of deaths among U.S. teens, and while this was also true prior to widespread cellphone usage, the numbers have only gotten worse with each passing year.

Local Representation in New Jersey

Even professional drivers succumb to the temptation to text while driving, and truck drivers are often involved in accidents caused by their distractions. In such a case, RAM Law can discuss your options with you if you have been the victim of such an accident. You can reach our New Brunswick and Somerville offices by calling (732) 394-1549, and you can contact us online to set up an initial consultation with a trucking accident lawyer.

Contact Our Office

To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us online or call our offices, in New Brunswick at (732) 247-3600, in Somerville at (908) 448-2560, or in Freehold at (732) 828-2234.

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