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Texting and Driving: Get the Message

It’s always tempting, isn’t it? You hear the alert of a new text coming in, and even though you are behind the wheel, you feel compelled to take a peek. The trouble is, a peek can turn into a long look or even a reply – and that’s dangerous.

Texting and driving is incredibly common, and not just among the 20-and-under crowd. Recent statistics indicate that 27% of adults have sent or received text messages while driving. Other reports show that texting while driving makes a crash up to 23 times more likely.

The offense has often been compared to drinking and driving, with officials citing similar behaviors in texting drivers such as swerving, erratic behavior, driving too fast or too slow, and more.

The danger is severe enough that the majority of state governments have taken action. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association reports that 39 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all currently ban text messaging for all drivers.


Startling statistics

Texting and driving might be difficult to identify by sight, but recent polls show offenders fessing up:  

  • A 2011 Harris Polls discovered that 49% of drivers with cellphones under the age of 35 send or read text messages while driving.
  • According to the Pew Research Center (2010), 49% of adults say they have been passengers in a car when the driver was sending or reading text messages on their cell phone.

 These responses point to a sad fact: Annually, about 6,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries are caused by distracted drivers.


What the law says

These disturbing numbers have caused many states to take action. In Michigan, texting while driving was banned in July 2010. And now most teenage drivers are forbidden to even use cell phones while driving. Kelsey’s Law, named after Upper Peninsula teenager Kelsey Raffaele, who died at age 17 while talking on her cell phone and driving, brings a fine and possible license suspension to drivers with a level 1 or 2 graduated license found using their cell phone while driving.


Top tips

Clearly, it is in your best interest to curtail cell phone use in general while driving. In our ever connected world of busy lives and social media, though, this is easier said than done. Try these tips if you are tempted to check your messages while behind the wheel:

  • Turn off your phone when you drive. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a great policy when it comes to safe driving. Store your phone where you won’t see it, and be sure to turn the sound off.
  • Have someone else text for you. A passenger in your car can handle incoming texts if you need to address a message while driving.
  • Establish ground rules. If you have a teen driver, set the expectations for driving and texting. If you ban it and provide consequences, you will get better results. 
  • Paint a picture for your driver. Many teens and adults won’t drive drunk. But they need to understand that driving distracted is just as dangerous. Talk with all the drivers in your family about the consequences.

No text is worth the price of death or severe injury. Know the facts and set the limits in your family to ensure the safety of those you love.

David Haenel, Esq., of the firm of Finebloom & Haenel, is a criminal defense attorney, author, and lecturer who has been named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers magazine. He can be contacted at FightYourCase.com.

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