Texting While Driving is a Serious Health Risk - Duh!


I know, it’s not you – it’s the other guy. I want to talk about a serous health risk that more than 80 % of us admit to engaging in – texting while driving or talking on a cell phone while driving.

How much faith to you have in yourself as a driver? And how much faith do you have in other drivers? I’m betting you believe you are more competent than most of the drivers with whom you share the road. Be honest, am I right? I think its human nature to find ourselves more competent than everyone else on the road, but when I scrutinize that belief it’s just doesn’t hold up. So let’s get real for a minute about the danger of multi-tasking while driving an automobile.

A View from the Emergency Room

I have spent many years of my career in emergency rooms, so I have seen first hand the damage a human body can suffer in an automobile collision. Back before there were laws requiring seat belts, there were many more (and much worse) injuries than after the law was enacted. I have seen so many people either permanently disfigured or killed, and often young and beautiful people, just because they weren’t wearing seat belts. But cell phones scare me even more.

The thing about accidents is this, AFTER they’ve happened you can’t take them back. And most accidents are preventable. But that’s ONLY IF you will respect the risks and avoid taking them BEFORE something bad happens.

Facts about Texting While Driving and Using a Cell Phone While Behind the Wheel

Consider this:

  • More than 50 scientific studies have identified risks in driving and using a cell phone.
  • You are 4 times more likely to get in a car crash if you use a cell phone while you are driving.
  • Driver inattention is responsible for 80% of all crashes. Cell phones, because they are used so much, are the leading cause of driver distraction.
  • Hands free devices do NOT make cell phones any safer.
  • Talking to a passenger in your car is not the same as talking on a cell phone. Because the passenger is with you and aware of your surroundings, they see the circumstances you are in. Not only are they are less distracting, they may even alert you to potential dangers.

Texting while driving is even riskier than talking on a cell phone because it requires that you take your eyes off the road. (Really, who thinks they can do this safely?)

The View from My Driver’s Seat

On my way to the office most mornings it seems like everyone I pass has a cell phone plastered to their ear. Others are applying make up, shaving, eating, even reading the paper. It seems everyone is preoccupied with something other than attending to the business at hand – negotiating a deadly vehicle, often moving at a high rate of speed, through congested roads filled with other potentially deadly vehicles driven by equally distracted drivers.

When driving I try to keep away from drivers on phones because I know they aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around them. I see them moving down the road and their driving pattern makes it clear that they are oblivious to what is going on around them. It’s terrifying.

The Laws of the States

Only 5 states prohibit cell phone use by all drivers (and that’s only hand held cell phones): California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington. Some other states prohibit young drivers and school bus drivers.

Only seven states prohibit texting while driving: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington and the District of Columbia.

What We Say about Ourselves

In a survey of about 2500 people done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in 2008, four out of five drivers rated drivers using cell phones as either a serious or extremely serious traffic safety problem. Of those surveyed, 46% admitted they used a cell phone while driving at least occasionally.

So, we don’t trust others to use cell phones while driving, but see ourselves as more capable. Since we perceive ourselves as superior creatures with talents and capabilities above those of other mere mortals, we do not feel at risk nor do we believe we put others at risk the way all those “less capable” drivers do. This makes no sense. We all need to start using our common sense to keep us safe.

Ask yourself very honestly, do you really believe the laws of human nature do not apply to you? Acquiring a driver’s license is a right of passage into adulthood, but where cell phones and driving is concerned we are acting like children playing with matches. Sooner or later we are going to get burned.

A Proposed Solution

I propose we all, regardless of our age, start acting like responsible adults, police our own behavior and stop using cell phones when we are behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

I further propose that we ask our legislators to pass strict laws that ban cell phone use when driving. This would protect the rest of us from those unwilling to police themselves.

Let’s make it the law in all 50 states – just like we did with seat belts – and then let’s enforce it!

A Request

If you receive a call on your cell phone or if you need to make one, please pull off the road and get out of traffic first. And those of you doing your make-up and shaving – please finish dressing before you leave home so you can keep your eyes on the road. Thanks.

What are your comments? Does anyone share my fears and frustrations? For those of you who disagree, does what I say not make sense?

Links to more info:

Cell Phone Use While Driving Fact Sheet

Cell Phone Driving Laws

Cell Phones and Driving: Research Update, December, 2008

This information is offered for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat. For that please seek direct care from a health professional.

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6 comments so far. (Post your own)

#1 | On March 05, 2009, Liz Wheeler said:

I couldn’t agree more. Every once in a blue moon (really) I will do something in my car like reach for my bag, because it tipped to the side and all the stuff is falling out,and I am amazed by how fast something on the road changes and how close I have come to getting into trouble. I have a rule now that it can all wait until I’m sitting still.
The other road hazard I see here on Staten Island is a total disrespect for other drivers and for red lights. On the corner of one of the sites I work from there were 2 accidents in two weeks time caused by people who ran the light.

#2 | On April 05, 2009, Carla Mills said:

We all need to slow down, be more tolerant, more courteous and follow the rules of the road. It’s just a more pleasant and safer way to live.

Thanks for these thoughts.

#3 | On October 22, 2010, PHerman said:

Living in the Albuquerque area, I see drivers talking on their cells all the time.  Like you I try to give them a wide berth.  Although I have a cell phone, I still prefer the era when we were not available 24 hrs a day.  If my cell rings and I’m in traffic I wait to until I’m at my destination then check to see who called.  Most of the time it is something that can be taken care of later.

#4 | On October 23, 2010, Carla said:

That’s how I handle my cell phone in the car, too. I wish everyone did! Thanks for your comment.

#5 | On October 27, 2010, Ruth Trecker said:

I just read your article about cell phone use in NP World News. 

I heard something just a few days ago, I can’t remember where I heard it, but a guy has invented a gizmo that can be put on your phone that using the GPS in the phone, can detect motion and if the phone is in motion, it automatically answers it with a message to the caller of something like ‘Hi, this is Ruth, sorry I can’t answer right now but I am driving.  Please leave a message and I will call you back as soon as I reach my destination.  If it is truly an emergency and I need to pull over to call you back, please press the 3 key and I will find a safe place to pull over and call you back within a few minutes.” 

The driver never even knows there was a call until the GPS no longer detects motion, only then does it send a missed call or voicemail beep.  This should be mandatory on all phones, not just an app for some phones.

#6 | On October 27, 2010, Carla Mills said:

I never heard of this - it’s an awesome idea. I’m all for it!

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