Texting While Driving

Surveys with texting while driving facts have indicated that many people are messaging behind the wheel of automobiles, a vast majority of which are 18 to 24 years of age. Because text messaging combines visual, cognitive and manual aspects, it is one of the biggest distractions that a driver can encounter. Sending text messages is a convenient way to communicate with other people. When combined with driving, texting also becomes the source of a growing number of serious automobile accidents, resulting in injury and sometimes death.

Car and Driver, a prominent automobile magazine, did a field study observing reaction times in a driver sending and receiving text messages behind the wheel of a Honda Pilot. The car was rigged with a red light on the windshield that lit up to signal to the driver when they needed to hit the brakes. A passenger controlled a switch activating the light and monitored the driver’s reaction times. Drivers were tested while traveling at speeds of 35 mph and 70 mph, first while driving normally, then while reading a text message and finally while sending a text message. The tests were done on a controlled straight road course without any turns, traffic lights, pedestrians or other vehicles in the vicinity.

Texting Impairs Drivers

These tests showed that texting while driving seriously impaired the reaction times of each driver. Sending and receiving text messages caused each driver to take their eyes off the road for a dangerous amount of time. One driver traveled a distance of 319 feet when the light when on before applying the brake because he was sending a text. Two others traveled distances of 129 feet and 188 feet while reading texts before braking. The results offered a bleak assessment of the dangers posed by texting while driving and were comparable to the impairment in judgment and reaction time that occurs from drunk driving.

Texting While Driving Statistics

Such a habit is becoming more common with the boom of text messaging as a form of communication. An average of 9.8 billion text messages was sent or received in December 2017. In December 2019 that total had risen to 110.4 billion text messages sent or received in a month. It is difficult to estimate what percentage of this texting was done behind the wheel, but the percentage has grown each year. Many drivers are convinced they are good drivers even while engaged in sending or receiving text messages. They are oblivious to the dangers they pose to themselves and others out on the road until they become involved in an accident.

Teens certainly are one group that is at a major risk. According to research done by Nielsen, nearly 3,000 text messages are sent per month by individual teenagers. With nearly 3,000 text messages a month being sent, there’s little doubt that a portion is being sent out behind the wheel of an automobile.

A joint research effort from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the US Department of Transportation in 2009 showed alarming texting and driving facts. The report found that those who were texting were 23 times more at risk than those who weren’t driving distracted. Also in the report, it estimated that receiving and sending text messages can distract a driver’s eyes for an average time of 4.6 seconds at a time.

Texting and Driving Research

Unfortunately, the amount of research into the effects of texting is minimal. The texting and driving statistics that are available seem to suggest that both receiving and sending text messages can impede reaction times and increase lane deviation. Of the two, those who were text messaging saw the most drastic impairment. Trucks equipped with video cameras revealed that the odds of a near-crash or accident was 20 times higher while texting. However, of those incidents, only 1% were actual crashes as opposed to lane drifting and minor traffic conflicts. It is unknown how much texting contributes to actual accidents, or whether the data on trucks translates to passenger vehicles.

Texting and Driving Bans

As technology has continued to increase in the past few years, so too has attention from lawmakers, along with more texting while driving facts being released. There is no national law or ban on text messaging for drivers, but there is plenty of attention from local and state governments.  Right now, 37 different states, as well as Washington D.C. have a full-text messaging ban in place for all drivers. Text messaging and driving has been at the forefront of the battle against distracted driving, primarily because any view it as the most dangerous distraction to drivers. On top of the 37 states that have full texting bans in place, another six states have a text messaging ban in place for drivers who are under the age of 18.

Only nine states have a full ban on cell phone use, which shows the focused attention on texting and driving. Despite this, there is a positive trend in that many states are attempting to push new laws that would enact full bans on handheld cell phone use while driving.

Texting While Driving Facts

  • In 2009, over 5,000 car crashes involved distractions, a fifth of which cell phones and text messaging were involved.
  • Over 50 percent of teens have admitted to texting behind the wheel of a car.
  • More than one in five drivers have admitted to texting and driving.

State Texting Laws

Several states have enacted anti-texting laws in an effort to curb this dangerous trend. Many places have outlawed texting while driving and drivers caught doing it can be issued a ticket and pay heavy fines. The concern is that, even with anti-texting laws in place, enforcing those laws can be difficult. There is simply not enough manpower among law enforcement officials to catch every driver in the act while they are texting.