To many, the practice of texting while driving appears harmless. But this strong urge to answer a text or email while behind the wheel is an extreme road hazard. In fact, as U.S. government website Distraction.gov points out, texting is one of the severest driving distractions, one that not only puts the driver in jeopardy but also any passengers and bystanders.
As a result, several communities across the country, from New Canaan, Conn. to California, started Don’t Text and Drive Days, based on AT&T’s “It Can Wait” Campaign. While AT&T is not the first phone carrier to point out the dangers of driving and texting, its campaign is a greater effort to shed light on this habit’s significant dangers. Drivers who text behind the wheel, they point out, are 23 times more likely to get into a car accident. During 2010, texting behind the wheel increased 50 percent, with 20 percent admitting they send out a message while on the road.
September 19, in response, was designated as “No Text on Board – Pledge Day.” Not just a single day to put down and silence the cell phone, September 19 was the first of a longer commitment to safer driving.
In Connecticut, distracted driving laws specifically regarding texting are in place. Hand-held cell phone use and texting are both prohibited for drivers of all skill ranges. Emergency telephone calls are the only exception. While a call is assumed to be happening when a driver has a cell phone near his or her ear, “texting” qualifies as both reading and typing. Drivers caught engaging in either behavior are stopped and fined anywhere from $125 to $400. Teens, on the other hand, face stricter penalties. Connecticut is one of 39 states with similar laws in place.
Before a collision and the subsequent injuries, insurance company haggling, and lawsuits happen, drivers should be aware of their actions on the road. As minute as checking a text message may seem, it’s nearly five seconds a driver’s eyes are off the road; within that small time frame are 25 percent of all accidents, making texting behind the wheel six times more dangerous than driving intoxicated, Forbes points out.