196 Billion Text Messages: Distracted Driving Is The New Drunk Driving

196 Billion Text Messages: Distracted Driving is the New Drunk Driving

Ubiquitous. Definition: existing everywhere, present everywhere at once or seeming to be. The cellphone is ubiquitous. No matter where you go, whether to the store, restaurants, bars, parks, movies, streets and cars. Today, cars seem to have become the new phone booths. Many drivers are on the phone before they have even backed the car out of the driveway.

Is Anyone Paying Attention?

How could they be? The phones are so enticing. Not just talking, but texting, surfing the web, shopping (one click!), checking sports scores, updating Facebook, who has time to watch the road while driving? Well, everyone should.

The Physics of Driving

The basic equation of force is described as mass multiplied by acceleration. A 6,000 lbs SUV moving at 60 mph creates almost half a million foot/pounds of force. And people drive these vehicles while typing on a phone. People do it a lot, actually. In June of 2011, 196 billion text messages were sent. Many young people send 7,000 to 10,000 text messages a month.

7,000 Messages a Month?

That works out to be the equivalent of one text message sent every 6 minutes for a 30-day month. Since most people don't appear to be capable of sending texts in their sleep, in a 16-hour day, it works out to a text every four minutes.

Connecticut could see its first felony texting case, the result of a 16-year old girl striking and killing a jogger running along a road. The CT Post reports that she has been charged with felony misconduct with a motor vehicle, stemming from the cell phone use.

In Connecticut, legislators are beginning to discuss the possibility of increasing the penalties for texting while driving. There are similarities to the movement to stop drunken driving in the 1970s.

One bill that was introduced that would toughen the law died in committee, but the legislator has promised to reintroduce the bill. University of Utah professor David Strayer, an expert on distracted driving issues, has argued distracted driving should be treated like drunk driving, and he noted that, "The person who was killed doesn't really care if you were texting or if you were drunk."

All the studies point to the danger of cell phones, texting and driving. Studies show drivers who are intoxicated are four times as likely to be involved in an accident. Drivers on a cellphone or texting are eight times as likely to crash compared to non-distracted drivers, and according to the Department of Transportation, 3092 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents by distracted drivers in 2010.