Lentis/Driving while Texting

Driving while texting is the act of composing, reading, or sending a text message, email, or other related internet communication on a cell phone, while also operating a motor vehicle, such as an automobile, truck, bus, or train.[1] The scope of this chapter deals strictly with driving while texting in the United States.

Texting while Driving


Cell phone use while driving

In today's world of instant access to information, we don't want to settle for anything less when it comes to connecting with our loved ones. Instant Messaging, texting, and emails are a few popular ways to do so. However, this harmless motive can become highly dangerous when it is done irresponsibly. The title of an article in Huffington Post dated March 1, 2010, Driving While Texting: More Likely to Cause Crash Than DUI, illustrates this problem.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a survey in 2008 which revealed an increase in the use of electronic devices while driving. Another 2008 Nationwide survey by NHTSA reported an increase in the percentage of young drivers texting or using hand-held electronic devices from 2007. [2] This means that an increasing population of drivers is not only posing a life-threatening risk to themselves, but also to their fellow innocent drivers on the road.

With the rapid advancement and growth of technology, people now have access to numerous gadgets and hand-held devices at all times. This has resulted in an obsession to stay connected, especially within the younger generation. What is lacking is the responsibility that comes with the use of such devices. LG has teamed up with actress Jane Lynch to produce a humorous campaign to education the public about the dangers of texting while driving.

Facts and StatisticsEdit

The facts and statistics show that driving while texting is extremely dangerous to the driver, pedestrians near the vehicle, and other drivers on the road.

Types of DistractionsEdit

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's website for distracted driving, distraction.gov, there are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual - taking your eyes off the wheel
  • Manual - taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive - taking your mind off what you're doing. [2]

Texting and driving involves all three of the above distractions, and is therefore one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving.


  • According to experiments performed by Monash University in 2006, "When text messaging, drivers’ ability to maintain their lateral position on the road and to detect and respond appropriately to traffic signs was significantly reduced. In addition, drivers spent up to 400 percent more time with their eyes off the road when text messaging, than when not text messaging." [3]
  • According to the same Monash University study, the number of incorrect lane changes increased by 140 percent when sending and receiving text messages, with the majority of these incorrect lane changes due to the drivers' inattention to signs. [3]
  • In 2008, approximately 21 percent of injury crashes and 5,870 people lost their lives due to distracted driving. [4]
  • In 2008, the University of Utah conducted a survey which showed that 48 percent of 1,500 drivers believe that using cell phones while driving is the most dangerous distraction on the street. [5]
  • A survey published by the New York Times on July 18, 2009 shows that drivers have on average a 0.24-second slower reaction while they are texting. [5]
  • A Nationwide survey conducted in July of 2010 states that nearly 40 percent of Americans say they have been hit or nearly hit by a distracted driver using their cell phone. [6]
  • In an examination of driver distraction by NHTSA, it was found that the age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group, where 16% of all under-20 drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. [4]

Car and Driver ExperimentEdit

Car and Driver did a recent experiment where they compared the effects of drunk driving and texting while under real road conditions. They took 2 drivers, Eddie Alterman, a Car and Driver editor, and Jordan Brown, a Car and Driver web intern, and first had them drive at 35mph and 70mph to establish baseline readings. They then had to read and send text messages at 35 and 70 mph. After this, they took a break and had several alcoholic cocktails to bring their BAC’s to 0.088, just over the legal limit.

The results turned out to be significant. Both drivers' reaction distance, which is the distance it takes to stop after they see a red light, increased significantly when they were both reading and sending texts. Alterman's results were much worse than his baseline readings. While reading a text and driving at 35 mph, his average baseline reaction time of 0.57 second nearly tripled, to 1.44 seconds. While texting, his response time was 1.36 seconds. These figures correspond to an extra 45 and 41 feet, before hitting the brakes. Texting turned out to be at least twice as dangerous as driving drunk. One of the experimenters said, “While you’re texting and driving, time disappears. You’re concentrating so hard on reading and texting that you completely ignore what’s happening around you.” [7]

Noteworthy IncidentsEdit

The Chatsworth Train CrashEdit

On 12th September, 2008, at approximately 4:22 pm [8] in Chatsworth, California, a Metrolink commuter train skipped a red light and collided with a freight locomotive that was coming from the opposite direction on the same tracks. The Chatsworth Train Collision resulted in the death of 25 people and 135 passengers were injured. It was found that Robert Martin Sanchez, 46, missed the red light because he was texting on his phone. [8] Sanchez was also killed in the crash.

Erica ForneyEdit

On November 25, 2008 Erica Forney, was riding her bike home from school, a corner away from her house, when she was hit head on by an SUV. The driver, Michelle Smith, admitted to using her cell phone while driving, and said that she was so sorry and she didn’t see Erica there. Michelle Smith wrote a letter of apology to the family. Erica was rushed to the hospital and airlifted to another facility, but she died on that Thanksgiving. Shelly and Daren Forney, the parents, are spreading awareness and advocate that drivers, "Get off the phone. Save a life. Don't talk and drive." [9]

Heather Leigh HurdEdit

One January 3rd, 2008 Heather Leigh Hurd, a Walt Disney World employee, was en route to a meeting with a wedding planner and her parents in Florida, when a tractor-trailer crashed into her car while she was waiting at a stop light. The crash killed Heather Hurd and severely injured her finance, who was in the passenger seat. The driver later admitted to having been texting at the time of the accident. After this accident, Heather's father, Russell Hurd became an advocate for texting-while-driving laws which became known as "Heather's Laws" in several states such as Florida and Maryland. [10]

Laws and LegislationEdit

US texting driving laws

Currently, 30 states outlaw texting while driving, with 11 of these laws being enacted in 2010 alone. Of these 30 states, 26 have primary enforcement, while in the other 4, texting is a secondary offense. There are currently 8 states that have banned handheld cell phone use for all drivers. [11]

In December of 2009, a federal law went into effect that banned text messaging while driving for all federal employees. In January of the following year, the Federal Government enacted a ban on text messaging for all drivers of commercial trucks and buses. There is currently legislation being considering that would cause states to lose federal highway funds if they fail to enact texting-while-driving legislation.[12]

No Texting Sign

Opposition to LawsEdit

There has been much opposition to texting while driving laws from various groups. Much of this opposition stems from a controversial study from the Highway Data Loss Institute (HDLI), examining the effectiveness of texting-while-driving laws in several states. HDLI researchers monitored monthly collision claims per 100 insured vehicle years during the months immediately before and after these laws were introduced in several regions. The institute then collected information for nearby jurisdictions without the bans. The study showed that month-to-month fluctuations in claims were not changed by the introduction of these bans and did not change even in comparison with nearby states.[13]

There has also been opposition to distracted driving laws from the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents various electronic devices such as Global Positioning System (GPS) Navigation systems, hands-free calling systems and bluetooth headsets, all of which they fear could become a target of future distracted driving laws. The CEA offers its positions on driver safety on its website. The organization contends that distracted driving legislation should focus on unsafe driver behavior rather than specific technologies. They also believe that many electronic devices in cars serve to increase driver safety, and the benefits of those should be considered.[14]

Why do people do it?Edit

Texting while driving has been made illegal and proven to be more dangerous than drunk driving. Moreover, thousands of lives are lost every year because of this form of distracted driving. However, these results have not deterred drivers from participating in this act. Due to the innumerable forms of communication available today, from mobile phones to social networking sites, society feels the need to keep up with all of them. Some of the sociology behind texting can be explained in Sociology of Texting. Americans are suffering from technology overload and check their devices no matter the multitasking they must go through in order to do so. [15] Cell phone use has become so common that in 2010, 91 percent of Americans use a cell phone, a 5 percent increase from 2009. [16] Due to its commonality, Americans feel they can use their cell phones whenever they want, even while driving.

Who is in favor of driving while texting?Edit

  • In an online survey conducted by Seventeen Magazine and automobile club AAA for teens ages 16-19 years the teens gave the following reasons for engaging in texting while driving. [17]
  • 41% said it takes only a split second. [17]
  • 35% said they don't think they'll get hurt.[17]
  • 22% said it makes driving less boring.[17]
  • 21% said they are used to being connected to people all the time.[17]
  • According to a Nationwide survey it was found that 10 percent of drivers aged 16 to 24 years old are on their phone at any one time. [6]

Teen/Students' ViewsEdit

  • "It's easy. You just got to be smart with it." -— Gadsden City High [18]
  • "I feel texting and driving is OK at speeds less than 45 mph." —- Gadsden City High [18]
  • "I text while I drive but only when I am stopped at a stop light or sign, not while moving. Others should do the same or learn where the letters are on their phone so they can look at the road but can still text." —- Gadsden City High [18]
  • "It's hard to fight the urge when you get a message on your phone when you're driving. It's hard not to text back." -- Brandon, a teenager from Austin, Texas. [19]

Parents' ViewsEdit

  • "I believe people believe they can do it all, drive and text, but they don't realize it can only take a second for your hands and eyes to leave the wheel and then there you go." -- Terrie Harris (parent). [20]

Technical SolutionsEdit

True SMS-Life Saver (iPhone)Edit

View on iTunes

This application is designed for the iPhone users to prevent them from texting while driving.

From the developers: "True SMS - Life Saver is a step forward in letting you drive and not text. When a text comes in you can simply make a quick stop (or hand the phone to someone else) touch to pick a pre-defined answer and send, then off you go in seconds again. Please do so during a quick stop!"

Textecution (Android)Edit


This is an application that disables texting while driving and is desgined for the Android platform. This application is designed for parents to install on their children's cellphone to prevent them from texting behind the wheel. If the user tries to remove this application from their phone, it notifies parents of this activity.



Key2SafeDriving places the driver's phone in "Safe Driving Mode" while the car is running. This prevents the user from texting or making calls while driving. However, the driver can call 911 and two other emergency numbers selected at the time of installation. [21]

Key2SafeDriving has two components:

  1. A device that is plugged into the car and is activated when the car is running.
  2. A software that must be installed on the driver's cell phone.[21]

When the car is started, the device is turned on and it communicated with the cell phone using Bluetooth and puts the driver's cell phone in "Safe Driving Mode".[21]

Social GroupsEdit

There are many social groups that are trying to increase awareness about the dangers and deadly consequences of texting while driving.



Their mission is to "...raise awareness of the dangers of texting while driving and to prevent harmful injury or death caused by the act of texting recklessly." They have a section called Share Your Story where people can share stories about tragic incidents of texting while driving to which they lost their loved ones. They hope that those who still text while driving learn a lesson from others' mistakes. There is also a section named Take The Oath where one can take the oath to never text and drive. [22]

Oprah's No Phone Zone CampaignEdit


Oprah Winfrey has been striving to discourage people from texting and driving. Her website features various tragic stories of innocent lives lost due to someone's irresponsible behavior. She is promoting a No Phone Zone Pledge where one can pledge to make their car a No Phone Zone. Currently, there are a total of 408247 pledge submissions. [23] Oprah also devoted an entire episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show to the dangers of texting while driving. This episode also included stories about families who lost their loved ones and interviews with people who survived car crashes. [24] National organizations including U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Governors Highway Safety Association, are supporting Oprah's "No Phone Zone Day". [24]

Facebook Groups & PagesEdit

The following Facebook pages and groups represent the perspectives of various social groups that are for and against texting while driving.

For Texting while DrivingEdit
Against Texting while DrivingEdit

Discussion and the future of this chapterEdit

In this chapter, we have tried to highlight the prevalence of texting while driving today, despite the dangers, and presented the perspectives of various social groups.

Anyone who is interested in adding to this chapter may update the statistics related to texting while driving. It has been found that people do not just text while driving but also check their email, browse through social networking websites like Facebook, and/or lookup something on Google. Future authors can investigate what kind of such activities people indulge in the most when using their cell phone while driving. Also, it would be interesting to note the age groups that participate in these activities despite the dangers and laws, and why they do so. Since this chapter specifically the United States, International laws and practices on the matter could serve as a comparison.


  1. Texting while Driving.
  2. a b Distraction.gov, Statistics and Facts from Distraction.gov - a U.S. Department of Transportation Website.
  3. a b Monash University Study, The Effects of Text Messaging on Young Novice Driver Performance.
  4. a b NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, An Examination of Driver Distraction as Recorded in NHTSA Databases.
  5. a b Texting while driving? Police will get you, Article from Jakarta Post.
  6. a b Nationwide Technology Survey, Driving while Distracted Research Results.
  7. Car and Driver, Car and Driver website with featured experiment video.
  8. a b Chatsworth Accident from reuters.com, Train engineer was texting just before California crash: By Reuters.
  9. Oprah's End Distracted Driving, Oprah's Website which features a story about Erica Forney.
  10. Heather's Law, Article about Russell Hurd from The Ledger.
  11. Governors Highway Safety Administration, State Law Information.
  12. Federal Texting-While-Driving Ban, Information about new federal legislation regarding texting-while-driving.
  13. Highway Data Loss Institute, News Release.
  14. Consumer Electronics Association, Position on Driver Safety.
  15. Newsmax.com, Americans Experiencing Technology Overload.
  16. ARS Technica, Wireless Survey: 91% of Americans use cell phones.
  17. a b c d e Bans on texting while driving, An article from USAToday.
  18. a b c Students' opinions on texting while driving vary, An article from The Gadsden Times.
  19. Teens, parents learn the dangers of texting while driving, A news article from news8austin.com.
  20. Teens, Parents Put To Texting While Driving Test An article from wapt.com
  21. a b c Key2SafeDriving FAQ, Key2SafeDriving Frequently Asked Questions page.
  22. TxtResponsibly.org, Their website which includes related stories and an Oath.
  23. Oprah’s No Phone Zone Pledge, Oprah’s No Phone Zone Pledge and statistics, including the total pledge submissions.
  24. a b Oprah’s No Phone Zone Day, NYTimes article about Oprah's No Phone Zone Campaign