Everyone agrees that reading or composing a text message distracts you from paying full attention to other activities. In fact, in a widely-reported New York Times article, it was estimated that the act of texting reduces your IQ points by 10. It is therefore no surprise that texting and driving are a troubling combination. To send or receive a text, you need to take your eyes off the road, one or both hands off the steering wheel and think about something other than actually driving.
However, a recent report shows that text messaging and driving is much more dangerous than earlier thought. The Transport Research Laboratory in England found that motorists who use a cell phone to compose and send text messages while driving significantly increase the likelihood of being involved in an accident. Startlingly, reaction times were 35% worse for those texting and driving. This figure is much higher than those who had drank alcohol at the legal limit, who were 12% slower, or those who had smoked pot, who were 21% slower.
Further, the report concluded that motorists who send or read text messages are more likely to fail to remain in their lane or tailgate. Indeed, overall the steering ability by those texting was 91% inferior than non-texters while drivers under the influence of marijuana experienced only a 35% decline.
The Transport Research Laboratory concluded that the average text message takes 63 seconds to compose while a phone owner is driving, compared with 22 seconds while not stationary. At 60 mph, that means that texting drivers travel over a mile while their attention is distracted creating ample opportunity to get into an accident.
New York’s Legislature already has a bill its working on to ban texting and driving. It is now only a question of when this bill becomes law, not whether. [Update: The New York Legislature approved such a bill and, once signed, it will become effective November 1, 2009]
Either way, for everyone’s safety (including yourself), there is no text worth reading or sending that’s more important than avoiding an accident. Texting obviously impairs your reaction time and vehicle control, and should await until you’ve safely arrived at your destination.
To read the full report, cut and paste this link into your browser: www.racfoundation.org/files/textingwhiledrivingreport.pdf
… Sent while on the road (just kidding).
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Congratulations to my friend Richard Humphrey for being the first to realize that the guy taking the above photo (me, sheepishly) is driving AND texting AND photographing while driving.
The observant Mr. Humphrey also noticed that the screen of the Blackberry contains a shameless self-promotion of my contact information. Well done Richard!!