The use of personal electronic devices has coincided with an increase in the number of accidents attributed to distracted driving. The connection between texting and car accidents has led to texting bans in 41 states, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. A recent study conducted in the first state to pass a texting ban, Washington, showed that a larger than expected percentage of drivers are using electronic devices behind the wheel. Of those using such devices, 45 percent were shown to be using them to send or receive text messages.
The texting ban in Washington was passed in 2007. After more than five years of enforcement, texting remains a serious contributor to distracted driving behaviors. Researchers for the University of Washington observed the behaviors of more than 7,800 drivers at controlled intersections. They were looking for drivers engaged in distracting activities.
More than 8 percent of the drivers observed were using electronic devices. Hand-held devices were the most common type of distraction recorded. The lead investigator for the study pointed to prior research showing that texting increases the likelihood of an accident by 2300 percent. Texting while driving has been equated to driving with a blood alcohol level of .19, more than twice the legal limit. While Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban, it did not pass a law allowing for primary enforcement until 2010.
As Illinois contemplates the start of tougher cell phone laws, it is important to recognize that the behavior is still common even in places with full bans in place. Texting while driving is dangerous. The attitudes of drivers toward this conduct needs to change to prevent distracted driving fatalities.
Source: University of Washington, “Nearly half of state’s distracted drivers are texting,” 9 September 2013