Sending text messages is a convenient way to communicate with other people. When combined with driving, texting also becomes the source of a growing number of serious automobile accidents, resulting in injury and sometimes death.
Car and Driver, a prominent automobile magazine, did a field study observing reaction times in a driver sending and receiving text messages behind the wheel of a Honda Pilot. The car was rigged with a red light on the windshield that lit up to signal to the driver when they needed to hit the brakes. A passenger controlled a switch activating the light and monitored the driver's reaction times. Drivers were tested while traveling at speeds of 35 mph and 70 mph, first while driving normally, then while reading a text message and finally while sending a text message. The tests were done on a controlled straight road course without any turns, traffic lights, pedestrians or other vehicles in the vicinity.
Texting Impairs Drivers
These tests showed that texting while driving seriously impaired the reaction times of each driver. Sending and receiving text messages caused each driver to take their eyes off the road for a dangerous amount of time. One driver traveled a distance of 319 feet when the light when on before applying the brake because he was sending a text. Two others traveled distances of 129 feet and 188 feet while reading texts before braking. The results offered a bleak assessment of the dangers posed by texting while driving and were comparable to the impairment in judgment and reaction time that occurs from drunk driving.
Such a habit is becoming more common with the boom of text messaging as a form of communication. An average of 9.8 billion text messages were sent or received in December, 2005. In December, 2008 that total had risen to 110.4 billion text messages sent or received in a month. It is difficult to estimate what percentage of this texting was done behind the wheel, but the percentage has grown each year. Many drivers are convinced they are good drivers even while engaged in sending or receiving text messages. They are oblivious to the dangers they pose to themselves and others out on the road until they become involved in an accident.
State Texting Laws
Several states have enacted anti-texting laws in an effort to curb this dangerous trend. Many places have outlawed texting while driving and drivers caught doing it can be issued a ticket and pay heavy fines. The concern is that, even with anti-texting laws in place, enforcing those laws can be difficult. There is simply not enough manpower among law enforcement officials to catch every driver in the act while they are texting.