OMG Texting While Driving Can Kill: Get the Message?

September 24, 2010
Finally, some major attention is directed to the dangers of distracted driving – specifically, the use of cell phones for texting or calling while driving. It’s about time. The National Safety Council estimates that 28 percent of all crashes, 1.6 million per year, can be attributed to cell phone talking and texting while behind the wheel. And more than 50 research studies have shown that using phones while driving results in hundreds of thousands of injuries and thousands of deaths annually.

That's just not acceptable.

We’ve come to be so reliant on these handy little devices that they’re like an extension of our hand. In the age of always-on communication and instant access, we as a nation are increasingly distracted, frequently rude, and generally paying less attention to our driving while we’re behind the wheel – if we use cell phones to text or call while we’re driving.

The 2010 Distracted Driving Summit kicked off this week in Washington, D.C., and government, safety, and industry experts are diving into developing policies that can limit the reach of dangerous distractions. The Governors Highway Association and Consumer Union are also attending the summit and have released the following 10 tips to help everyone manage their distracted driving:

1.    Turn off your phone or switch to a silent mode before you get into the car.

2.    Set up special messaging that lets others know you are driving – or sign up for a service that does so.

3.    If you need to make a call, pull over to the side of the road or out of traffic where you can make the call safely.

4.    If you need to reach someone, ask a passenger to make the call for you.

5.    Never text and drive, or read email or go online while you are driving.

6.    Be knowledgeable about the laws in your state relative to using cell phones for texting or calling while driving -- before you get in your car. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has a listing of cell phone laws by state. 

7.    Check maps and know where you’re going and how to get there before you get in the car. Ask a passenger to help you with maps, if necessary. If you have a navigation system, plug in your destination address before you leave.

8.    Pets are a distraction. Be sure to secure them before you set off to drive.

9.    Children are also a major distraction to drivers. Pull over to the side of the road or somewhere you can address their needs safely.

10. Keep your focus on driving and avoid anything that takes your mind – and your eyes – off the road.

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For facts and statistics about distracted driving, see Distraction.gov, the official U.S. government website about distracted driving.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) has joined forces with the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA) to produce a valuable public service announcement which urges drivers to never text while driving. The AAOS website also includes facts and statistics on the problem of texting while driving – and the results that trauma surgeons all too often see.

Bottom line: Considering the chance you take by making that call or texting while driving, is the risk really worth it? Parents should not only set a good example, but make it part of family rules that use of cell phones while driving (for calls or texting) is simply not allowed. Not only that, it’s against the law in many states.

OMGTexting while driving can kill. Get the message?

See Bengt Halvorson’s article on the subject, and Ford’s support for the ban of handheld texting while driving.

[AAOS, Consumer Reports, National Safety Council, IIHS, NHTSA, Distraction.gov]

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