Health Corner: Rethinking the Risks of Texting and Driving
April 9, 2021
The “on my way” text that you send lets your mom know you are on your way home for the weekend. You may have already started driving when you send it, but it’s no big deal. Or the double exclamation point, emphasizing your friend’s response in a group text when you’re heading down I-72 with no traffic. We’ve all done it. But the Center for Disease Control reports that each day, nine individuals lose their lives because of distracted driving.
Maybe then you think, “Just because I am texting, that doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention to my surroundings. My driving skills are on point.”
But behavioral scientists warn us that we only can concentrate on a small handful of things at a time. Whether we want to believe it or not, texting and driving is distracted driving, and it puts other lives at risk.
A study from King’s College in Pennsylvania concluded that nearly 80 percent of college students text and drive, even though they recognize the inherent risk. Who honestly doesn’t text and drive? It’s not like anyone you know has been injured in an accident caused by texting and driving.
Maybe it’s time to think again. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) informs us that texting while driving is a whopping six times more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol. In other words, drivers who are texting have a reaction time that is nearly one fourth slower than that of someone who is driving intoxicated.
In 2018, the NHTSA noted that 2,841 people were killed in distracted driving accidents, and another 400,000 were injured. 3,000 deaths may not seem all that drastic, but have you considered that all 3,000 were 100 percent preventable?
Plus, consider all the work that is put into making hands-free driving our second nature. Many cars on the market have built-in safety features that come as the standard in all makes and car models. The latest Apple iOS operating system allows you to send an automated text generated to senders of incoming texts to your phone. Once the phone connects to the Bluetooth in your car, the “do not disturb” feature is activated. It is important to note that you can still receive calls when this feature is enabled.
These features are essential to optimizing your safety; lives may depend on it.
From a legal standpoint, serious consequences can result from texting and driving. Texting and driving may result in fines of $150-$500. If there is a resulting fatality, charges may include negligent homicide, misconduct of a motor vehicle, or even second-degree manslaughter. Jail time for the offense could be up to ten years. According to the Office of Legislative Research, a fatal accident involving aggravated use of a communication device will result in a class four felony for the driver using the communication device. Accidental injury or death involving aggravated use of a communication device while driving can result in one to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
As college students, we are working hard to prepare ourselves for our professional careers or graduate degrees. Charges such as negligent homicide, misconduct of a motor vehicle, and second-degree manslaughter can severely derail future plans. As texting and driving deaths continue to rise, please challenge yourselves to be more proactive behind the wheel. Don’t let yourself become part of a statistic.
Remember to text your mom before you leave for home. Use the do not disturb features. Your friends will understand. Is your text worth an innocent life?
Take a moment the next time you get into your car to weigh the cost of texting while driving. It may seem dramatic or unnecessary, but it might just save a life.