Published on September 19th, 2009 | by Babar Bhatti0
Driving While Texting – Not Worth The Risk
Obviously, no responsible person would attempt texting while driving. What about checking emails on your phone while driving? I suspect that there are a lot more people who have done that. A recent article about texting and driving prompted a lot of discussion – as expected. One shcool of thought is to enact a law to tackle this. The other point of view (and this is the minority) is that eating or applying make up is also dangerous, why don’t we ban that as well?
Here’s one issue in these contentious times that almost everyone appears to agree on: Driving while typing out text messages on a mobile phone is dumb, potentially deadly and should be banned.
So let’s just ban driving while texting, right? Not so fast. Nothing’s ever that easy, especially when powerful economic interests and different levels of government are involved.
Later this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to convene a “summit” on “distracted driving.” The issue of driving while texting, or DWT, will be high on the agenda. For the first time, it appears that most major interest groups involved are for doing something to make DWT illegal.
First there’s debate about what distracted driving is. Then there are conflicts of interest.
Distracted driving is a broad term that can be applied to a wide variety of behaviors. You can be distracted behind the wheel by talking on a mobile phone held in your hand, talking on a phone using an earpiece, or talking on a phone using a hands-free “telematics” system embedded in your car. You can be distracted by a messy cheeseburger or a hot cup of coffee. You can be distracted by an iPod that’s not playing what you want, or a passenger, or a map or paper with directions on it. You can be distracted by a ball game on the radio, or a billboard.
Some safety advocates argue that any use of mobile communications while on the road is dangerous, and should be stopped. On their side is a body of research that suggests that the mere act of talking to someone not in the car—whether the phone’s up against your head, or in a cupholder while you wear an earpiece—is a risky overload of a driver’s cognitive functions.
Texting with your fingers and thumbs, however, is clearly a problem. A recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study found that manual text messaging elevated the risk of a crash or near crash to more than 23 times higher than “nondistracted” driving.
Auto makers and their suppliers are working on systems that will allow drivers to send and receive text messages using voice-activated systems. They don’t want those features outlawed.
In the meantime, given how hard it will be for police to enforce legislated bans, the best way to curb texting while driving probably is to make it socially unacceptable, particularly among teens
Where do you stand on all this?