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Texting While Driving Most Dangerous Driving Distraction

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According to a new study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting is the most dangerous driving distraction and increases the risk of collision 23 times more than when a driver is not texting.

During the study, the researchers outfitted the cabs of 100 long-haul trucks with video cameras and watched the drivers for 18 months. Their findings showed that in the moments before a crash or near a crash, drivers spent nearly five seconds looking at their texting devices. Traveling at highway speeds, five seconds is enough time for a truck to travel the distance of a football field.

Currently, thirty-six states do not ban texting while driving. However, Tom Dingus, the director of the Virginia Tech Institute, says that the message of this study is clear: that drivers should never text while driving and that “it should be illegal”. Only 14 states do have laws against texting while driving, including Alaska, California, Louisiana and New Jersey. Legislators in some states that do not have laws have rejected the idea altogether and elected officials say they need more data to determine whether or not to ban the activity. Perhaps the results of the study will send a compelling enough of a message that all states will eventually adopt laws against texting while driving.

There is a lack of data on the impact of texting while driving on subsequent car crashes because many police agencies do not collect data or have not conducted any long-term studies. Moreover, texting is a newer driving distraction. Nevertheless, the popularity of texting has soared in recent years—phone users in the United States sent 110 billion messages in December 2008 alone. That data represents a tenfold increase in the level of texting in one month since 2005. The danger of texting while driving has received more national attention in recent months after several crashes occurred that were caused by texting drivers. Specifically, the most shocking incident occurred in May of this year when a trolley car driver in Boston crashed while texting his girlfriend.

Shockingly, most drivers admit that they know that it is unsafe to text while driving, but continue to do it anyway. A new AAA Foundation traffic safety poll of 2,501 drivers found almost 90% of respondents agree that texting and e-mailing while driving is dangerous, but 18% of those people admitted to texting while driving in the past month.