“A national epidemic.” Those are the words used by Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood when talking about “texting and driving” in the United States today. It is hard to argue with that designation when considering the findings of a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP). The CDCP interviewed more than 15,000 public and private high school students across the country. The study revealed that about 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or emailed while driving. The number was 43 percent for high school juniors. A separate survey by the Pew organization in 2010 revealed that 47 percent of all adults admitted that they had at least once sent or read a text message while driving. “Admitted” being the key word. The real number is probably higher.
An ever increasing number of Americans own cell phones. As a result, “texting and driving” has become a bigger concern nationwide. Distracted driving, which includes texting and talking on a cell phone, is a major cause of death on the road. According to the Department of Transportation, in 2009 more than 5,400 people died and nearly 550,000 were injured in crashes linked to distraction.
Public awareness about the dangers of “texting and driving” is higher than ever. A CBS News poll conducted in May found that 94 percent of Americans said they believed texting while driving should be outlawed. A major development in pushing for legislation to ban “texting and driving” came last year when the National Transportation Safety Board urged all U.S. states to ban drivers from using electronic devices while driving, including for text messaging. So far 39 states (plus the District of Columbia) have banned text messaging for all drivers.
Florida, however, is not one of them. The most recent attempt to ban “texting and driving” in our state came earlier this year when Rep. Ari Porth, D-Broward, co-sponsored legislation to make texting illegal behind the wheel. The bill did not get out of committee.
Fight this “epidemic.” Here are some tips from AAA on how to prevent “texting and driving” for you and your family:
- Don’t be tempted: Turn off your cell phone. Let voicemail capture your voice and text messages.
- If you have to call or text while driving, pull off the road safely and stop.
- Recognize that text messaging can be a habit. Get support from your friends by letting them know you are working on breaking the texting habit. If you think you will still be tempted to text and drive, put your phone somewhere you can’t reach it, like the trunk.
- Take control of your cell phone, don’t let it control you. You are the only one who decides when and if you send and read a text message.
Tips for Parents:
- Don’t call/text your teen at times when you know they are likely to be driving.
- Review your teen’s cell phone bill with them to see if they are texting at times they are likely to be driving. Share this information with your teen.
- Establish family rules that prohibit texting while driving.
- Set a good example – don’t text and drive.