Safety officials are doing everything they can to get motorists to stop texting and driving, but based on a disturbing trend, they aren't having much luck. In 2015, for example, 35,092 road users were killed in accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, many of them attributable to distracted driving. That's a 7.2% rise from the previous year.
In 2016, deadly collisions rose even more sharply. Though the numbers aren't confirmed, the National Safety Council estimates that 40,000 drivers died after being involved in serious accidents. Assuming this data is accurate, that's a 6% increase from the previous year and up 14% from 2014 – a jump last witnessed more than 50 years ago!
While there are many reasons that get to core issue of why these incidents happen as often as they do, texting and driving leads the list. And the most troubling aspect of it all lies in the fact that people understand the risk they're taking by texting at the wheel, yet continue to do it.
With April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month, here are six good reasons why you should stop texting and driving, and encourage everyone else to do the same:
1. Several car accident injuries happen per hour
In the time it takes you to tie your shoes, someone somewhere in the U.S. is injured in an auto accident. More specifically, based on the NSC's estimates, accidents serious enough to warrant medical treatment occur once every eight seconds. Distracted driving behaviors is partially to blame. In a survey done by NSC in February, 47% of respondents said they felt comfortable using their handheld devices from behind the wheel.
2. Accident potential multiplies with texting and driving
There are no shortage of analyses that detail the degree to which motorists risk their lives – as well as those of their fellow commuters – by texting. Few, however, are more compelling than the one done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. In 2013, VTTI researchers determined texting at the wheel increased the chances of being involved in an accident up to 23 times compared to those who keep their eyes on the road. Several major news publications and awareness organizations have detailed this startling statistic, including The New York Times, The Associated Press, and The Ad Council.
3. It sets a bad example
The notion of "Do as I say, not as I do," may be a fine sentiment, but it's not realistic – particularly as it pertains to impressionable teenagers and their behaviors while driving. Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization, revealed from its own polling that 51% of teen motorists have witnessed their parents checking their handheld devices despite being in the driver's seat, CNN reported. What's more, over 55% of parents admit to doing this very thing. Teens may not necessarily do everything their parents do, but texting and driving is undoubtedly a learned behavior.
4. It's against the law
Regulations are in an almost constant state of flux, but at the present time, 46 states strictly prohibit motorists from text messaging and 12 states prohibit any handheld device use while driving. And in states where the activity is still legal, legislatures are currently considering making the practice unlawful. These include Arizona and Texas. The penalties for distracted driving differ by state, but they can be as much as $10,000 in Alaska for first-time offenders, according to Mother Jones Magazine, based on a collection of local media reports and state legislative data.
5. May increase your auto insurance premiums
It's pretty straightforward: Accidents cost money. Car repairs can be in the several thousands of dollars, and on top of that, injuries may require medical treatment – which are even more expensive than car fixes. If you're involved in an accident and you were found to be texting and driving, you can almost guarantee that your car insurance rates will be adversely affected.
6. You promised not to drive and text
NHTSA has a website called Distraction.gov, which details the very latest happenings as they pertain to multitasking at the wheel. In addition to providing some eye-opening statistics, visitors are asked to "Take the Pledge," vowing to never text and drive. A download enables those willing to make this commitment to print the pledge out and sign it. Millions of people have done so. If you've given your word not to text and drive, it's important that you live up to it.
All the texting and driving laws in the world won't end distracted driving. But with everyone's cooperation, the roads will be that much safer – one fewer text message at a time.