Photo credit:   IntelFreePress   via   Foter.com   /   CC BY-SA

Photo credit: IntelFreePress via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

I saw an interesting digital billboard this past week on I-45 south of Houston. 
The message was: “Don’t text and drive, we can wait, - Carnes Funeral Home.” This dark humor reminds us of the extremely dangerous driving behavior we see everyday, but the problem of distracted driving is actually much worse than you think.

    Here are the facts:

    1) In 2013, 3154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers;

    2) In 2013, approximately 424,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted driving;

    3) 10% of drivers of all ages under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash;

    4) Drivers in their 20s are 23% of drivers in all fatal crashes, but are 27% of distracted drivers and 38% of the distracted drivers who were using a cell phone in fatal crashes;

    5) 1/3 of all drivers admit to text messaging while driving;

    6) At any given daylight moment, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones;

    7) 5 seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting; 

    8) A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive. 20% of teens and 10% of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving;

    9) In the U.S., text messages increased from 81 billion in 2005 to 1.8 trillion in 2013;

    10) Highway safety researchers have conclusively proven that cell phone usage - dialing, answering and talking - is as dangerous as driving while legally intoxicated;

    11) Studies conducted by the National Safety Council prove the act of talking, both hands-free and hand-held, to be unreasonably dangerous

    12) Researchers found that dialing a cell phone increases the odds of a safety critical event from 3.51 to 5.93 and the act of reaching for a cell phone to increase odds from 3.74 to 7.5 times.

    Needless to say, these facts confirm what our common sense has already told us. Distracted driving is a huge safety problem and it will only get worse as electronic distractions are added to our vehicles.

    Importantly, and for the sake of emphasis, cell phone usage, even hands-free, is a dangerous distraction and should be avoided. 

    Texas is not one of the 45 or 46 other states that make texting and driving illegal.  This is thanks to Governor Perry vetoing bills that were passed by large majorities. Maybe this will change in the next session, but whether the law changes or not, we must change our behavior.