In the past decade, cellphones have become increasingly available to the general public in the United States. Currently, over 88% of adults own cellphones. The average age at which an American receives his or her first cellphone has plummeted down to 11.6 years old. As cellphone use has increased, we have seen a startling rise in distracted driving accidents. Text messaging accounts for the majority of distracted driving incidents. Texting is now being blamed for over 6,000 fatalities per year. It now accounts for 25% of all motor vehicle crashes, and is the number one driving distraction for American teenagers.

When compared to other obvious things not to do, studies suggest that texting ranks as one of the most perilous driving activities. For example, a recent study at Virginia Tech reveals that the dangers of texting while driving outweigh the dangers of driving while intoxicated. On average, drivers who text messaged were around six times more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers who were legally intoxicated. In a separate study conducted by Car and Driver Magazine, the reaction times of texting drivers were shown to be significantly slower than drivers who were legally drunk.

Overall, NHTSA states that individuals who text while driving are 23 times more likely to have an accident that those who do not text. The obvious dangers of texting while driving are highlighted by the recent bans many states have placed on the practice. Currently, 39 states have completely banned the act of texting while driving. Most recently, on August 1, 2012, Alabama banned texting while driving. Individuals caught texting while driving in Alabama will be given a $25 fine, which increases $25 upon each subsequent offense. After the third offense, a driver’s license may be suspended. In addition, a driver gets two points put on his driving record for each offense, which could increase his or her insurance rate.

The number of car crashes related to text messaging continues to climb every year, despite the bans many states have enacted. What remains to be seen is whether the new laws will have any long-term effect, and if the obvious repercussions of text messaging while driving, now both legal and physical, will be able to separate Americans from their growing dependence on electronic mobile devices. Hopefully, educational programs – combined with the legislative efforts – will make folks realize that distracted drivers create a huge hazard that puts others on our highways at great risk of death or serious injury.

Sources: http://www.distraction.gov/; NHTSA.gov

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