We all know someone whose hand is permanently glued to his or her cell phone. While this behavior is just annoying in social contexts, it can be deadly in others—particularly behind the wheel.
Cell phone use while driving is extremely distracting. Texting, emailing, surfing the web, and talking on the phone while on the road causes thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries each year. In 2011, 3,331 fatal accidents occurred as a result of distracted driving, up 1.9 percent from 2010. In the same year, 387,000 injuries were reported to have been caused by a distracted driving accident, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association Survey of the States [no longer available from source].
Drivers have always engaged in behaviors that can be distracting: eating, drinking, looking at a map, etc. But cell phone use is especially dangerous because of its prevalence. Fifty percent of Americans own smartphones. And while the vast majority of Americans surveyed believe that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous (88.5 percent), many admit to performing the same hazardous behaviors. 26.6 percent admitted to sending a text or email, 34.6 percent said that they read a text or email, and 68.9 percent reported talking on the phone.
In the past several years, states have been increasingly cracking down on distracted driving in order to stem the rising tide of deaths.
Currently, 47 states have laws banning distracted driving. The same number of states has enacted initiatives to educate the public about the danger of distracted driving. Laws have been getting tougher, as well.
Alaska bans texting while behind the wheel for all drivers, but lack of funding makes enforcement difficult.
We urge you to put down the phone while behind the wheel. When you talk or text while driving, not only are you risking a ticket, you are also endangering your life and the lives of others. You are twice as likely to crash when you text behind the wheel. If you have kids, make sure to set a good example and tell them about the dangers of cell phone use in the car.