America is facing a serious epidemic of distracted driving caused by texting. At any given moment, 660,000 drivers are using a cell phone while operating a vehicle. According to the NHTSA, texting while driving is responsible for approximately 400 fatal crashes each year.
Top driving and texting statistics and facts
- 660,000 drivers use their mobile phones to operate a vehicle at all times of the day (NHTSA).
- Texting and driving while texting is 20 times more dangerous than using a phone to communicate with your friends (Virginia Tech).
- Texting while has the same effect on your driving reaction time as if you had consumed four beers in a single hour (Drivesafeonline.org)
- Texting distracts you long enough to travel the length of an entire football with your eyes off the road, driving at 55 mph (Drivesafeonline.org)
- 35% of teens admit texting and driving while 94% understand the dangers (AAA).
- One in four teens admits to responding to at most one text message every time they drive (AAA).
- 10% of parents and 20% teens admitted to multi-text conversations while driving (AAA).
- Teens who text while driving spend an average of 10% of their driving time outside of traffic lanes (Drivesafeonline.org).
Yearly deaths due to texting and driving
Each year, around 400 fatal accidents are caused by texting while driving. According to the NHTSA, this number rises to more than 30,000 when distracted driving is considered as a whole. While distracted driving and texting are declining in recent years, the overall number of fatalities due to distracted driving is on the rise.
The most recent data shows that texting and driving death rates were at an all-time high in 2013 and 2016 before dropping in 2017.
What is texting while driving?
Texting while driving is defined legally as when a driver uses a cell phone to send, read, and compose text messages while operating a motor vehicle. Texting while driving is a form of distracted driving. There are three types:
- Visual distractionsThis type of distraction is caused by visual stimulants which avert your eyes.
- Manual distractions
Manual distractions require you to use your hands and give up control.
- Cognitive distractions
These distractions can distract you from driving, causing your thoughts to drift onto other things.
Driving while texting is particularly dangerous because it involves all three.
What are the dangers associated with texting while driving?
The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) says that it takes about five seconds to read a text. You drive at 55mph for about 360 feet. That’s a lot of time to lose your eyes from the road. It’s not just a momentary loss of attention; it is also the extra time your eyes take to reorient themselves to the road and other cars around.
Teens and young drivers are especially susceptible to the dangers of texting and driving when they have fewer years of experience under their belt. Inexperienced drivers can lead to more accidents and, unfortunately, more deaths among this age group.
In addition to doubling your chances of an accident, texting while driving can triple your risk of other incidents on the road:
- Driving over the curb
- Retire from the road
- Collisions with trees and poles, signs, or other items
You are not the only driver at risk. According to the NHTSA, distracted driving was responsible for the deaths of 605 passengers and 400 pedestrians in 2018.
Texting and driving: The history
Before the introduction of phone messaging in the 1990s, text messaging was not a popular option. Although it had limited capabilities and was not as advanced as what we have today, it was a start of a dangerous trend. In the 2000s texting became the norm with wireless providers including text messaging in their bundles.
Texting is a popular method of communication. It is a quicker way to communicate and offers privacy without the need for phone calls. It is also less expensive. Users quickly discovered that text message allowances were much more generous than minutes for their cell phone providers. Subscribers began to rely on texting for communication in order to stay within their plans.
State governments responded to the increasing epidemic of distracted driving in 2008 by enacting new legislation. Alaska was the first state to pass text messaging as a criminal offense. For those who text and drive, it could be a misdemeanor. Other states soon followed their lead.
Driving while texting is still a big problem. 39% of high school students admit to texting while driving.
Technology for safe driving
The possibilities for safer communication are increasing with modern technology. DriveMode, an app that tracks the speed of a person’s car, can block text and phone calls above 15 mph. Drivers can also use other apps to compare driving habits and earn insurance discounts for reducing their risk.
Many cell phones can now read your text aloud by simply asking you to “read my texts messages”. Most keyboards also have a voice-totext feature that allows users to speak instead of typing.
Although we’ve made great strides in driving safety and texting, the work is not done. It’s up each driver to adopt safe driving habits with the help of modern technology.
All age groups are guilty of texting and driving, but data from the NHTSA shows that there are some groups that are far more active than others.
Drivers between 20 and 29 years old use more cell phones than older adults. The 30-39 age group, ages 15-19, also uses more cell phones while driving. After 39, the risk of texting while driving starts to decline. This means that drivers aged 40 and older are more responsible and less likely to be in an accident due to texting.
What is the prevalence of texting while driving?
Many drivers have used text messaging to communicate behind the wheel. Some do it regularly, others only when they need it. How common is texting while driving?
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that one out of every three drivers knows someone or has a relative who was injured or killed in a car crash. The study also found that one third of drivers admitted to texting while driving. This is a dangerous risk, as texting and driving are responsible for one-third of all accidents in the United States.
The NHTSA says that about 36% of drivers with a smartphone use their phones at a red light or stop sign, increasing the likelihood of distracted driving even after you press on the gas. Around 35% of drivers confess that they use their phones after getting back behind the wheel.
Cell phone use can’t be attributed solely to driving. The lure of social media is always tempting. A quick glance at a headline can make you forget about the road. Many drivers rely on apps such as Spotify and Pandora for music and podcasts while driving. You can even use your phone’s map app to change or set up directions.
Driving while texting can have serious consequences
Driving while texting is a violation of moving traffic laws. Depending on your location, texting while driving could also be considered a Class A or Class C criminal offense. Some laws are not applicable in other states or jurisdictions.
As a reasonable punishment for driving while under the influence, many states have considered financial penalties. The penalties range from $20 to $500 depending on the state. However, in some states, like Alaska or Iowa, fines can be as high as $1,000, which is considered a misdemeanor.
Additional possible penalties for texting and driving can include:
- Points on your driving record
- Suspension or suspension of your driver’s licence
- Driving privileges revoked
- Driver safety courses are mandatory
- Vehicle impoundment
If bodily injury is involved, texting and driving offenders could also face imprisonment or time. Although penalties vary depending on the situation, school bus drivers and commercial drivers face more severe penalties because of their public status. Repeated offenses can result in severe consequences.
State-by-state driving and texting laws
Each state has its own laws. It is important to check the texting and driving laws in your particular area. This is a comprehensive, state-by-state listing of current U.S. texting and driving laws.
How texting and driving can impact car insurance rates
Long-lasting consequences can also be caused by texting while driving. After the dust settles, you will need to deal with your car insurance company.
Car insurance premiums are based on risk. Each person’s premium is calculated based upon a set of rate factors. This determines how much coverage you need each year. This covers everything, from your location and what kind of car that you drive, to your credit score, driving record, and claims history.
Be sure to always shop and compare car insurance quotes each year to find the best car insurance provider for you. Car insurance can get particularly pricey when you have a texting and driving offense on your driving record, so be sure to also consider the cheapest car insurance companies in your state to find a policy that’s affordable for you.
Massachusetts is an example of how texting while driving can have a negative impact on rates. Car insurance premiums have been steadily on the rise since 2016, when car insurance rates increased an average of 6% to 9% within a single year. In 2017, premiums rose again after many Massachusetts car insurance companies were granted state approval to raise rates by 3% to 66% to reflect growing texting and driving habits.
Writes local affiliate NBC Boston, “In the past three years, insurance companies have determined they have sufficient data about the riskiness of drivers who receive distracted driving violations on their driving records to raise rates accordingly and that they have substantial proof to convince regulators of the validity of their rate changes.”
This was an innovative measure that quickly became popular among car insurance providers in other states.
How to stop texting while driving
The first step to preventing texting while driving is at home. While governments and other organizations may try to discourage the practice by imposing harsh penalties on drivers and driving education, the truth is that texting and driving is something you must stop doing.
Although it’s not easy to do, these tips can help you quit texting while driving.
- Make sure you are clear about the usage.
It’s not just about sending an errant message while driving. It’s now a general term that describes a variety of behaviors using your phone. Texting and driving can also be used to refer to texting, calling, or using social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
- Create a routine for pre-driving.
Before you start your car, make sure you are secured inside the vehicle. Before you start driving, make sure that you have checked your messages and responded to any urgent requests. You can expect an immediate reply if you need it. Let the recipient know you are driving, but will review their message as soon as you have completed your drive.
- Your phone should be kept out of reach.
If you don’t have access to your phone, you won’t be able to use it. So, keep it in the glovebox, backseat, or trunk so it’s not tempting to reach for it as you drive.
- Make sure you have the right directions.
Be sure to plan your route before you leave, regardless of whether you are using your phone’s or your car’s navigation system. Fumbling with directions while trying to navigate the traffic around you can lead to confusion and even an accident. To ensure a smooth trip, instead take a moment to look up your directions before you go.
- Make use of the features on your phone.
Many phone makers today offer a “Do not disturb” function that helps to deter texting and driving. On phones such as Apple, the “Do Not Disturb” function is popular. This allows you to set your phone to quiet mode which silences all incoming messages while the feature has been enabled. The messages will still be received, but the messages are saved for later review to ensure that you don’t get distracted by repeated email and text notifications. These settings can be enabled to send an automatic text response to calls and incoming messages. You will then answer the call later.
- Invest in a SMARTwheel.
This revolutionary technology uses the steering wheel cover to detect distracted driving behaviors and alert drivers in real time.
- Set an example.
Texting behind the wheel is dangerous. Don’t send messages to someone you love if they are driving. This is especially important for parents with teens driving.
- Participate and educate.
Parents play both the educator and enforcer roles at home. It is crucial that parents are involved in their safety. Make sure you educate your children about the dangers of texting while driving. Even better, it’s a good idea to remind your friends and more experienced drivers about the possible consequences. It’s a good idea to bring it up during conversation to raise awareness about the potential dangers associated with this activity.
Apps to stop texting while driving
Some apps are specifically designed to assist drivers on the roads and possibly reduce texting and driving habits.
Availability: Android, iOS
AT&T’s DriveMode app is available for iOS and Android. It encourages responsible use of cell phones. The app will detect when you are in motion and send you a reply to let you know. The app supports both Spanish and English bilingual capabilities. Parents especially appreciate the security features that give you an insight into your child’s use and whether or not the app has been enabled.
Down for the Count
This app makes safe driving fun. Ask your friends and family to sponsor you and set a safe driving goal. The app tracks your driving habits and reports back on areas you need to improve. You can cash your winnings once you have reached your goal. You will receive your prize via a gift certificate of your choice, from any restaurant or retail outlet, as well as financial institutions.
Availability: Android, iOS
We don’t always think about checking our phones, but sometimes we do. Then, the flash of a notification sparks our curiosity and we succumb to temptation. LifeSaver quietly runs in the background, monitoring your movements and silencing any incoming notifications. Even if your phone is in motion, LifeSaver will not respond to you. Instead, you will get a locked screen until the car is finished. You can still make calls and use your phone as a driver, but you cannot receive any.