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Evaluation of The Risks of Sending Messages While Driving

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Texting while driving can ruin your life, don’t do it. Texting while driving puts you and the people around you in unnecessary risk, and is just as a dangerous as drinking and driving, because the consequences can be equally deadly. Therefore texting and driving should be just as illegal as drinking and driving. Putting yourself and the people around you at risk of death or serious injury is not acceptable, and one hundred percent preventable. Texting while driving should be prohibited by federal law.

Texting While Driving Should Be Prohibited by Federal Law

Intextication is the state of having your mind and focus on texting to the point that you are not aware of what is going on in the world around you. (The Online schools organization, 2014, p. 1) When someone is texting while driving, the person is sometimes referred to as an “intexticated” person, as in relation to an intoxicated person. (Professional Safety. 2013, para 1). There is a good reason for this because the effects of an intexticated person behind the wheel of a moving vehicle can be the same as the effects of an intoxicated person behind the wheel. The final result is slamming your vehicle into some else’s vehicle or property, or even hitting a pedestrian.

Intexticated driving is increasing among road users. (A. Benedetto, et al., 2012, p. 29) Smart phones are becoming more popular among teenagers, and teenagers represent the majority of new drivers. Many middle aged adults have also begun to text while driving and they were not educated on the dangers of it because texting devices did not exist when they first got their driver’s license. In the article “Texting While Driving More Prevalent Among Adults” the author discusses the fact that many middle aged adults take part in texting and driving. (Eddy, N., 2013 p. 1). This shows that it is not just the teenagers doing the texting while driving, which makes it even more of a problem in society. If intexticated behavior behind the wheel is increasing in society, then society is acting irresponsible and dangerous which is causing a public safety problem. If society will not act reasonable and responsible on its own, then federal law should intervene for the sake of public safety.

Texting while driving is dangerous and irresponsible. In the article “Effects of mobile telephone tasks on driving performance: a driving simulator study,” the author states that “In 717 of the 723 crashes investigated (99%), a driver behavioral error caused or contributed to the crash.” (A. Benedetto, A. Calvi, F. D’Amico., 2012, p. 30) Although the “behavioral error” was not necessarily texting, taking your eyes and focus off the road for texting is just as dangerous and any other behavioral error out there. This includes drinking and driving and reckless driving.

Using a cell phone for any purpose while operating any vehicle hinders the operator from operating the vehicle with full focus and alertness. Therefore, there is automatically at least some risk when somebody uses a cell phone while operating a vehicle. In the article “Impactful distraction” The author writes “cell phone conversations impede what a driver sees and processes, a number of studies have shown. That, in turn, slows reactions and other faculties.” (Seppa, N., 2013, p. 1). If cell phone conversations slow driver reaction time, which could be deadly in an emergency situation, then texting while driving would surely slow the drivers reaction time as well. The author of Impactful distraction also states “The risk of an accident quadruples when the driver is on the phone…” (Seppa, N., 2013, p. 1). This shows there is risk when using a cell phone while driving, even if you are only using the simplest functions. Texting could be considered a smart phone’s most complex operational function. This means using the texting feature when driving would be the most dangerous cell phone operation, which would bring the risk of an accident up much higher that quadrupling it.

If you are fairly new to the topic of texting and driving, you might think texting isn’t so hard, so it probably is not that dangerous when driving, or you might think to yourself, I am skilled enough to handle it. If those are your thoughts then you should take note of the article “Wat 2 Do Abt Txt’n & Drv’n (aka: What to do About the Problem of Texting While Driving?)” which examines some the actions of texting while driving. The author writes “texting takes at least part of the driver’s mental focus away from the task of driving. Second, texting drivers have to take at least one hand off the wheel to send messages, and typically, to read them.” (Gardner, L. A., 2010, para 1) and “drivers usually receive the contents of their text messages visually, which requires that they take their eyes off of the road for a certain period of time.” (Gardner, L. A., 2010, para 2). Any experienced driver should be able to see the danger in this kind of driving behavior. “The best hopes for addressing it effectively lie with a multi-pronged strategy that condemns the behavior legally and socially” (Gardner, L. A., 2010, abstract).

Texting while driving presents a public safety problem. It has resulted in loss of life, in long term injuries, and property damage. Yet research shows that there is a three way disconnect between public option on texting while driving, scientific studies of texting while driving, and legislation on texting while driving. (Seppa, N., 2013, p. 1) This disconnect needs to be eliminated by outlawing texting while driving, and educating the public primarily through required readings in order to obtain or renew a driver’s license.

When Mr. Seppa interviewed an emergency room physician at West Virginia University by the name of Jeffery Coben, Mr. Coben stated that “injuries seldom occur because of chance events” (Seppa, N., 2013, p. 3) implying that vehicle accidents that result in injuries are not chance events, but rather they are predictable and preventable. Mr. Coben continued to state “every crash is an interaction between an individual operating the vehicle and the environment it in.” (Seppa, N., 2013, p. 3) Mr. Coben is absolutely correct. When a vehicle crashes because the operator was texting instead of focusing on driving, it is a predictable result which could have been prevented, and not a random chance accident. Losses and injuries from intextication is completely preventable.

However, texting is becoming a common part of life and there are behavior changes that come with it, but texting when moving around is dangerous. People who walk while texting will change their walking style to be more cautions, but the research shows that their modified walking behavior does not make them any safer. If people cannot walk safer while modifying their behavior when texting, then what makes them think they can drive safer by modifying their behavior while driving and texting? According to the article “Practicing Safe Text: the Impact of Texting on Walking Behavior,” texting is causing car accidents. The authors state “using a phone while driving has increased the number of distracted driving accidents.” (Lopresti-Goodman, S. M., Rivera, A., & Dressel, C., 2012, para 1). The research shows that the outcome of texting and driving is predictable, it results in crashing the vehicle, which results in property damage and possible injuries, and possible fatal injuries. Therefore for the sake of public safety, texting while driving should be outlawed.

Speaking of the law, there is an article called “New Approaches to End Texting While Driving” in which a California highway patrol officer by the name of Brian Pennings is educating teenagers on the dangers of texting and driving. According to Officer Pennings, “drivers who are texting are twice as likely to crash than those driving under the influence of alcohol.” (New Approaches to End Texting While Driving, 2013, para 1) Drinking alcohol impairs driving skills, but texting turns off driving skills altogether. A blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 will impair someone’s ability to control the speed of a vehicle, but intextication will impair someone from knowing that there is danger right in front of them. According Officer Pennings “fewer teens drink or take drugs before driving than text or talk while driving.” (New Approaches to End Texting While Driving, 2013, para 2) So we have two topics here. The first is driving while intexticated and the second is driving while intoxicated. Driving while intexticated is the more dangerous of the two activities and the most dominate activity of the two. Yet driving while intoxicated is the only one of the two activities that is illegal in all fifty states. Now you might ask yourself “that’s odd, why is that?” The answer is because driving while intoxicated has been around for over a century, but cell phone texting has only been around for about a decade. Humans becoming intoxicated pre-dates the invention of the automobile, but texting on a cell phone and on smart phones has only become a wide spread activity in the last five years. This makes right now the right time to make texting while driving illegal in all fifty states.

According to mothers against drunk driving, all fifty states have made it illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater, and, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 will impair someone’s ability to control the speed of a vehicle and cause difficulty processing information and reasoning. (page 1) Many states have made it illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of only 0.02. Now which is more dangerous, driving with impaired ability to control the speed of a vehicle and difficulty processing information and reasoning, or, driving while having your full focus on reading a text message on a cellphone, not processing any information in relation to where your moving vehicle is going or what is in front of it? At least with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 you can still somewhat try to avoid smashing your vehicle into something with limited ability. But when you are focusing on reading a text message, you have no concept that the danger is even there, therefore there will be no attempt to even avoid the danger.

The article “Trends in Fatalities From Distracted Driving in the United States, 1999 to 2008” examined trends in distracted driving that lead to a fatality and its relation to cell phone use and texting, during the time period of 1999 to 2008. The authors state “laboratory and naturalistic studies showed that talking on a cell phone raises the risk of collision by more than 30%.” (Wilson, F. A., & Stimpson, J. P., 2010, para 2). So we know that just talking on a cell phone when driving greatly increases the risk of collision from studies from the recent past. We also know that this dangerous activity can be done without even taking their eyes off the road. But texting while driving does require the driver to look at the phone instead of the road. We also know that taking your eyes of the road for any reason while driving is dangerous. Therefore logical and deductive reasoning proves that intexticating yourself when driving is dangerous and increases the risk of a collision. Being intexticated while operating a vehicle should be socially condemned because it is so dangerous. Therefore intexticating yourself when driving should be federally prohibited.

The federal government already recognizes that texting and driving is wrong. In fact, according to the Federal Communications Commission:

The White House issued an executive order on October 1, 2009 stating that the Federal Government should demonstrate leadership in reducing the dangers of texting and driving and that all Federal Employees shall not engage in text messaging when driving a government vehicle or when driving while on official government business. Additionally it asks that all agencies of the Executive Branch reevaluate and consider new rules and programs to prohibit text messaging while driving and raise awareness for Federal Employees about the safety risks associated with texting while driving. (para 2)

Now the federal government needs to take it to the next level and ask the Senate and the House to pass legislation to prohibited texting when driving to the American public as well.

There is an abundance of more research and evidence that backs up the fact that texting while driving is dangerous. For example, in the article “The Effects of Text Messaging During Dual-Task Driving Simulation on Cardiovascular and Respiratory Responses and Reaction Time” the article discusses a study that attempts to replicate the effects of text messaging distractions on reaction times. Forty test subjects finished their computerized reaction time tests with a single task, which was without texting, and dual-tasking which had texting being the second task. The results showed that the text messaging significantly increased reaction time. Reaction time is what separates the expert defensive drivers from the amateur drivers when it comes to avoiding an accident. Those with quick and decisive reaction time have a the increased odds of preventing a collision or weakening the impact of a collision and increase odds of walking away from a collision with minimal injury.

Surly someone will argue for personal freedom, saying it should be my choose if I want to take the risk or not, just as people did in the past over having to wear seatbelts. People will also justify their texting and driving by claiming that they are so busy that they have to multi-task, especially if they have a long commute. For example, someone may claim they have a two hour commute and claim they cannot be unavailable for that long. But that does not justify taking their attention of the road to look at their smart phone, which could risk a collision, which could cause them to never get home, along with will killing someone else in the process. Texting and driving puts not only yourself at great risk but the people around you at great risk as well, making it a public safety concern for everyone. How many innocent people have to die or suffer lifelong injuries caused by someone else who was texting and driving, before it is considered socially unacceptable and made illegal?

The online schools organization has put together some great texting and driving statistics that everyone should become aware of. They have reported the following:

Texting while driving is a growing trend, and a national epidemic, quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers. Drivers assume they can handle texting while driving and remain safe, but the numbers don’t lie.

Texting While Driving Causes:

  1. 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council
  2. 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study
  3. 11 teen deaths EVERY DAY – Ins. Institute for Hwy Safety Fatality Facts
  4. Nearly 25% of ALL car accidents

Texting While Driving Is:

  1. About 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated
  2. The same as driving after 4 beers – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
  3. The number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers

Texting While Driving:

  1. Makes you 23X more likely to crash – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
  2. Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time – VA. Tech Transportation Institute
  3. Takes place by 800,000 drivers at any given time across the country
  4. Slows your brake reaction speed by 18% – Human Factors & Ergonomics Society
  5. Leads to a 400% increase with eyes off the road bottom of page, no page number)

These statistics should be an eye opener for anyone wanting to argue for their right to text and drive.

In conclusion, texting while driving is unsafe and creates a public issue. It is more dangerous than drinking and driving which is already illegal in all fifty states. Some states already made laws against texting and driving. The federal government should take notice and make texting and driving illegal in all states of the USA.

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