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If you have spent any time around teenagers these days, you know how often they text. You can see them texting at restaurants, in the middle of conversations, during class, and even while crossing busy intersections. According to the Nielsen Company, American teenagers sent an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008. This equates to eighty text messages a day and a 100% increase from the number estimated in 2007. Teenage texting has gotten so bad that even physicians and psychologists have begun connecting the activity with anxiety, distraction in school, failing grades, repetitive stress injury, and sleep deprivation. With unlimited texting plans offered by major mobile carriers, teenagers are texting each other constantly. While they may not realize it, this behavior can lead to serious injury or death such as in the case of texting while driving.

Enacted in 2009, Virginia’s ban on texting behind the wheel was a step in the right direction to curb the dangerous and deadly activity. This ban allowed police officers to ticket offenders, but only as a secondary offense. Texting while driving is widely recognized as a serious hazard, and there is strong public support for legislation to restrict cell phone use while driving. Nationwide, eight in ten drivers support some type of cell phone use restriction, and of those who support some type of cell phone use restriction (e.g., text messaging, emailing, phone calls, etc.), nearly 75% believe the law should apply to all drivers, not just specific groups. Critics of the Virginia legislation thought the ban fell short of intended goals, because law enforcement could not stop offenders for texting and driving unless there was a greater offense to prompt a traffic stop.

Texting while driving is a significant contributor to collisions on the road. According to the National Safety Council, “28 percent of traffic accidents occur when people talk on cell phones or send text messages. The vast majority of those crashes — 1.4 million annually — are caused by cell phone conversations, and 200,000 are blamed on text messaging, according to the study.” Despite these numbers, 81% of American drivers still admit to sending text messages behind the wheel. Nationwide Insurance has put together other important cell phone driving statistics:

  • Distraction from cell phone use while driving (hand held or hands free) extends a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (University of Utah)
  • The No.1 source of driver inattention is use of a wireless device. (Virginia Tech/NHTSA)
  • Drivers that use cell phones are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (NHTSA, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • 10 percent of drivers aged 16 to 24 years old are on their phone at any one time.
  • Driving while distracted is a factor in 25 percent of police reported crashes.
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent (Carnegie Mellon)

Summer break means that more teenagers are going to be on the road. Beach towns like ours are sure to see an increase of teenage drivers. Inexperienced and easily distracted teenage drivers are already accident prone, and adding another distraction to the mix is an accident waiting to happen. Make sure you educate your teenage sons and daughters about the dangers of texting while driving and set the example for them to follow.

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