The next time you think about texting while driving, consider that according to a study by the VirginiaTech Transportation Institute, "texting took a driver's focus away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds-- enough time... to travel the length of a football field at 55mph". In 2009, this, combined with the findings of a study by Clemson University, that "text messaging and using iPod's causes drivers to leave their lanes 10% more often", resulted in 5,574 people killed, and 448,000 people injured in car crashes that involved the driver being distracted, as was reported by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling.
There are three types of distracted driving-- Visual (taking your eyes off the road), Manual (removing your hands from the wheel), and Cognitive (taking your mind off of what you're doing). As texting while driving fits into all three of these categories, it is considered to be one of the riskiest behaviors a driver can take part in. According to studies performed by the University of Utah, a driver who is drunk or talking on the phone is four times more likely to cause an accident, whereas a driver who is texting is eight times more likely to cause an accident.
Considering that some states have specific laws regarding distracted driving that may include using cell phones (talking and/or texting), currently there are 4 states that have no laws whatsoever prohibiting texting while driving-- Florida, Montana, Ohio, and South Dakota. That may be about to change soon, however, as Florida currently has 4 distracted driving legislative bills set to be voted on in 2012 (Senate Bill 416, House Bill 299, HB 187, and HB 39). The Florida Highway Patrol has decided to take on the issue of texting while driving another way, however-- instead of making punishment the primary means of convincing people not to text while driving, they have teamed up with Verizon Wireless to create the "Danger Thumbs" campaign, traveling to various high schools to educate students on the dangers of doing so. Their approach is appropriate, considering that in 2009, according to a survery taken by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more drivers in southern states were observed using cell phones while driving (1.0 percent), than in the other parts of the country-- 0.2 percent in the Midwest, and 0.5 percent in the West).
The next time you're driving down Barclay Avenue, Suncoast Parkway, or I-75, before you pick up your phone to text, consider the ramifications. Taking your eyes off of the road for those extra 4.6 seconds may not seem like such a long time, but it could mean forever-- not just for yourself or your passenger, but for the 89 percent of people involved in fatal crashes who were reportedly not texting while they were driving.