Expert: Texting While Driving, More Dangerous Than DWI

An expert in cellular phones has opined that texting while driving is much more dangerous than driving after drinking enough to be over the legal limit. The expert cited data that shows talking on a cell phone significantly occupies the brain and even a hands free device delays reaction time enough to increase dangers while driving. The expert, Ben Levitan, compared talking on a cell phone to a blood alcohol level of .08, the amount considered to be legally DWI in Texas and most other states. Levitan was very specific that this mental condition likened to DWI was even when a hands-free device is used.

Data suggests texting while driving is six times more dangerous than talking while driving. The article stated that looking down to send even a brief text requires about five seconds of continuous view at the screen of the handheld device. At 60 mph, five seconds is the length of a football field. A driver relies strictly on peripheral cues during this time, severely inhibiting a person’s ability to perceive a stimulus that may then require a reaction. Of course this reaction is then delayed further due to the brain being occupied by either reading, composing, or interpreting a text message.

In total, Harvard’s Center for Risk Analysis estimates that cellphone use while driving overall causes about 2,600 deaths and over 500,000 injuries every year in the United States. These numbers rival injuries linked to DWI drivers each year in the U.S.. Total numbers of accidents related to cell phone use are likely very underreported. In the event of a crash involving a cell phone, many drivers are likely to deny cell phone use or texting at the time of the crash.

Cell phone companies acknowledge that technology exists that could disable mobile devices from operating when in a moving car. There seems to be very little interest in the implementation of this technology at this time. Some car manufacturers have installed applications that allow limited operation of texting functions through a dashboard mounted screen. There is no real data on the affects of these devices.

Some states and some local jurisdictions have passed laws forbidding the handheld operation of a mobile communication device while driving. For example, Austin, Texas has recently implemented a law forbidding texting while driving. http://www.austintexas.gov/handsfree These local laws are not nearly as strict as DWI laws, and punishments are going to be limited to fine only.

Texas DWI laws provides for up to 20 years in prison if a person is killed as a result of an accident while a person is intoxicated. These is currently no crime in Texas specifically for killing another person while texting and driving. While a person who has a few drinks and drives may have to hire the best defense lawyer they can afford and spend thousands of dollars going to court for months, a person driving down the road flipping through their sisters Facebook pictures of their kid’s birthday party will not even get a ticket in most places.

Support laws to end this reckless, deadly practice many people have of driving down our roads while texting and browsing social media.

Tell us what you think about texting and driving or whether laws should address this.