Magazine article Risk Management

Unsafe at Any Speed: Text Messaging While Driving Has Been Banned by 17 States. What Are the Rest Waiting For?

Magazine article Risk Management

Unsafe at Any Speed: Text Messaging While Driving Has Been Banned by 17 States. What Are the Rest Waiting For?

Article excerpt

Any distraction while driving is a danger to everyone on the road. For many drivers, the biggest distraction is talking or texting on a cell phone. In the past three years, the number of monthly text messages sent has increased from 9.8 billion in December 2005 to 110.4 billion in December 2008, many of which were sent and received from those behind the wheel.

Examples highlighting the severity of the threat abound. In 2005, a 17-year-old Colorado resident struck and killed a bicyclist as he drove and sent a text message. In May, a Boston trolley operator injured 49 people after his trolley slammed into another while he was texting his girlfriend. But possibly the most horrific example of this epidemic is last year's train collision in California that injured 135 and killed 25, including the train operator, who ran a red signal while he was texting a friend.

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A recent study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that truck drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times as likely to be involved in a collision as non-distracted drivers. The study found that texting takes a driver's eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, long enough to blindly travel the length of a football field at 55 mph.

To combat this growing, deadly problem, 17 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving. Many other states have instituted fines if drivers are caught texting or emailing behind the wheel. The punishment in Utah can be up to $750 in fines and up to 90 days in jail. In Florida, a proposed bill known as "Heather's Law" would completely ban all cell phone use while driving. The bill is named after 26-year-old Heather Hurd, who was killed after a text messaging truck driver slammed into 10 cars in Polk County, Florida, killing her and another driver.

Auto insurers are desperate to combat texting while driving, and technology companies are racing to bring safer texting applications to market. Safe Driving Systems Corp. has developed Key2SafeDriving, an automobile ignition key that prevents drivers from talking on cell phones or sending text messages while driving. …

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