The menace of texting while driving

Did we really need a lot of research to confirm the obvious: texting while driving is dangerous. All 50 states should act now to ban the use of cell phones while driving. Take Oprah's pledge.
Written by John Dodge, Contributor

Oprah has now taken up the cause to ban the use of cell phones while driving because most state governments have failed to act.

It's high time all 50 states act quickly to ban distracted driving, namely using cell phones while driving. Twenty have banned texting and only seven ban cell phones outright. Watch the Youtube video below entitled "Texting While Driving (VERY GRAPHIC)." You will be moved like I was. And I am a First Responder and a firefighter.
So more than 42,000 as of this writing have taken the following pledge at oprah.com/nophonezone

"I pledge to make my car a No Phone Zone. Beginning right now,  I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by not texting or using my phone while I am driving.  I will ask other drivers I know to do the same.  I pledge to make a difference."

That Oprah has to take up the cause is a clear failure of government. Older studies questioned whether banning using cellphones while driving was worth sacrificing the value and convenience, but last year, the evidence while still not a smoking gun given the challenges in capturing the circumstances around accidents, overwhelmingly suggests driving while using a cell phone is dangerous.

Texting while driving is a menace.

-- Virginia Tech Transportation Institute monitored drivers for six million miles and found that texting raises the risk of a crash or near crash by 23.2 times.

-- The University of Utah concluded last year that cell phones impairs drivers as much as too much liquor.

-- The Pew Internet & American Life Project surveyed 800 teens and found that texting while driving is rampant.

These studies confirm what we already knew: using a cell phone while driving is dangerous. But it wasn't always that way. A 2003 study from the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis questioned if a ban was worth it:

"Quantifying the risks and benefits associated with cell phone use while driving is complicated by substantial uncertainty in the estimates of several important inputs, including the extent to which cell phone use increases a driver's risk of being involved in a crash, the amount of time drivers spend using cell phones (and hence their aggregate contribution to crashes, injuries, and fatalities), and the incremental value to users of being able to make calls while driving," says the study.

Perhaps, 2003 predates texting as a mainstream activity and the picture was less clear, but statistical mumbo jumbo clouded the truth. I have texted while driving and buy the grace of God, I have not looked up to horrifying reality of a child on a bicycle directly in front of me.

So I have taken the Oprah's pledge in absence of Massachusetts legislating against the use of cell phones while driving. I concede there are enforcement expenses and complexities, but they are trivial next to suffering caused by distracted driving.

Take pledge like I did.

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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