Texting and Driving
In the News
A California resident was sentenced to six years in prison after killing a 46-year-old woman in an automobile wreck in August 2007. Investigators determined Deborah Matis-Engle was driving 66 mph and text messaging when she slammed into a group of vehicles stopped in a construction zone. The victim’s vehicle burst into flames and rescue crews were unable to pull her from the wreckage before the fire claimed her life.
According to CTIA – The Wireless Association, Americans sent 561 billion text messages every month in 2014. Additionally, research by Harris Interactive indicates 57% of people text while driving. Current trends show the amount of texting isn’t likely to fade either; cell phone users in 2011 sent or received more than 41 texts each day, compared to only 12 traditional calls each day. The growing prominence of smartphones with email capabilities exacerbates these problems even further.
Researchers at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute determined 80% of all crashes, and 65% of near crashes, were caused because drivers were looking somewhere other than the road in front of them. This study validates the importance of minimizing distractions while behind the wheel.
After all, avoiding a crash is difficult enough even when a driver is alert. In fact, according to CNBC, a 2009 experiment with Car and Driver magazine showed texting while driving had a greater impact on safety than driving drunk. While driving drunk on a controlled road course, the stopping distance while driving 70 mph increased by 4 feet; by contrast, reading an e-mail added 36 feet, and sending a text added 70 feet. For these reasons, company policies and procedures should expressly prohibit text messaging.
As vehicles and technology become more advanced, the potential for distraction will become nearly unavoidable. Even technology meant to minimize distractions like Siri on the iPhone can be dangerous. Employees need to be constantly reminded to postpone cell phone calls and GPS use until they have either reached their destinations or pulled off of the road. Successfully enforcing these policies can be difficult. Many employers find value in shock-and-awe strategies; an abundance of horrifying auto wreck stories, photos and videos online, make this tactic inexpensive and effective.
Texting While Driving Legislation
As if the threat of serious injury or death isn’t enough, employees may be interested to find most states across the country have outlawed texting while driving. Only Missouri has a partial ban and Montana is the only state with no ban.
(Map is current as of March 2020)