Catherine Hiles
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7 Facts About the Dangers of Texting and Driving

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Female driver texting while behind the wheel
Photo: The News Wheel

There are many ways you can be a distracted driver, but all of them have one thing in common: Taking your attention away from the road. When you focus your attention on something other than the road in front of you, you’re putting your own life at risk, as well as the lives of your passengers and other drivers around you.

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Of all the distracted driving behaviors, one of the most common is texting while driving. Here are the facts about this dangerous behavior.

It’s super distracting

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending or reading a text can take your eyes away from the road for about 5 seconds, which means you could travel the length of a football field (360 feet) at 55mph without looking at the road once.

You might think you’re being careful, but it only takes one child running out into the street after a ball to change the course of your life forever.

It’s probably illegal in your state

Not only is texting and driving dangerous; it’s also illegal for all drivers in most U.S. states. The exceptions are as follows:

  • Missouri: only illegal for drivers 21 and under
  • Montana: not illegal at all
  • Tennessee: only illegal when vehicle is in motion

In the other 47 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, texting while driving is illegal, even when the car is stopped.

It can double your chances of an accident

A 2018 study by the AAA Foundation found that you’re twice as likely to get into an accident if you’re texting while driving. Additionally, it triples your chances of swerving off the road, hitting the curb or a tree, or crashing into a sign.

It’s as dangerous as drunk driving

broken glass filled with ice and whiskey with a car key lying on the surface next to it
Photo: stevepb

According to a study by NHTSA, a driver with a 0.05 percent blood alcohol level is twice as likely to be involved in an accident as a driver who has no alcohol in their system. To put that in perspective, the legal limit in most states is 0.08 percent, so even if you’re under the legal limit you’re still at a much higher risk for an accident.

Since a driver who is texting has also been found to be twice as likely to have an accident, that puts it on par with driving after a drink.

It’s extra dangerous for teens

Texting while driving isn’t a smart idea for any driver, regardless of age. But, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Teen Driver Source, texting while driving can be extra dangerous for teens because they lack the experience and driving skills of their older cohorts. Additionally, since teens have grown up with smartphones and other technology at their fingertips, texting while driving may actually seem more normal to them than, say, someone who might get salty when described as a “Geriatric Millennial.”

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It can encourage other dangerous behaviors

Teen Driver Source reports that high school students who admitted to texting and driving on a regular basis were less likely to wear a seat belt and more likely to either drink and drive, or ride with another driver who has been drinking.

It’s just plain stupid

Texting and driving is one of the dumbest things you can do behind the wheel. To avoid risking distraction when you get a text behind the wheel, either enable “do not disturb” mode on your phone, or just put it somewhere out of reach when you’re driving.