August 31, 2009

R U texting responsibly?

It's dangerous to text while driving.

Don't mix texting and driving!

Of all the new media, texting has exploded in the last year and, together with its sibling, twittering, it may now come with a caution label attached. While many of us are accustomed to listening to the radio in the car, very few of us watch television in the driver’s seat. The logic is obvious, and yet many of us engage in texting behavior that defies that same logic.

According to The New York Times (7-18-09; 7-28-09), two studies have shown that this new media and driving don’t mix. A study conducted by Virginia Tech showed texting truckers (on actual runs) were 23 times more likely to have a crash, and a University of Utah study showed that college students (in simulators) were eight times more likely to crash.

About the same as cell phones, you say? The Times notes that drivers using cell phones are about four times more likely to cause a crash than other drivers — about the same impairment as drivers with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the legal limit in many states.

So texting is anywhere from two to six times more dangerous than drunk driving. Why do we do it? As with most things, “I’m good at this — the other guy is the problem.” The 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index study released last week by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety showed that nearly 90% of those surveyed said texting or emailing while driving was a very serious threat to safety, yet 18% of those same people admitted texting in the past month.

BTW: Both studies found that drivers really do get absorbed. The Times reported, “In the moments before a crash or near crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices — enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field.”

So please, when you’re driving, put down your phone — and your makeup and your coffee!