Texting While Driving: How Dangerous is it?

by Gaurav Kheterpal on September 13, 2010

City Council members in Cincinnati on Thursday approved an ordinance banning texting while driving. Official data from Washington, D.C.-based Governors Highway Safety Association indicates that 30 states plus the District of Columbia and Guam currently ban text messaging for all drivers.

‘Texting while Driving’  is considered dangerous worldwide and ranks amongst the top most hazards of using a cellphone while driving. Does it lead to increased distraction behind the wheel? Is it worse than talking on the phone while driving? Just how dangerous is it texting while driving?

Let’s do a reality check.

It’s not uncommon to hear celebrities breaking traffic laws and texting while driving is no exception. New Jersey banned text messaging while driving in 2008. The penalties are reasonably strict – the first offense carries a $100 fine, which can be levied even if the driver hasn’t been pulled over for another traffic infraction. However, that didn’t deter “Jersey Shore” star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi from using her cellphone to tweet regarding a traffic jam at Newark. Twitter is all the rage these days, so incidents such as these are not isolated.

On the other hand, role models such as Oprah Winfrey are strictly opposed to the idea of texting while driving and she’s put up a “Oprah’s No Phone Zone Pledge” which encourages people to avoid texting and calling on their phones while driving.

There’s no shortage of evidences which suggest that texting while driving is a dangerous proposition. It’s hard to forget the 2008 Chatsworth train collision which killed 25 passengers because the driver was busy dishing out nearly 45 text messages while operating the train. A recent study by the Pew Research Center indicates that more than 50% all teens with cell phones send an average of about 1,500 text messages a month – some of these from the back seat of their cars and others when they are behind the wheels. IMO, this is cause for serious concern.

Wikipedia mentions sending text messages has a detrimental effect on a number of safety-critical driving measures. Texting while driving makes it hard for drivers to identify road signs and detect other driving hazards. Though there have been several scientific studies related to texting while driving, it has not been banned as a legal offence in several countries. A counter argument is that texting while driving is helpful under certain circumstances, especially to inform others regarding an accident or a traffic jam. Further, critics argue that why should such a ban be levied only on texting while driving? Why not ban TV and music players in vehicles?

In Canada, texting while driving is banned in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Several educational institutions and companies have tried their hand at developing a hands-free alternative to cell phone texting while driving. VoiceTEXT, an initiative by Clemson’s School of Computing is one such promising alternative.

Clearly, there’s no end to this debate. However, I’m with the general consensus that texting while driving is a risky proposition and should be banned universally. After all, “It is better to be safe than sorry.”

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS>, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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