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Is it Illegal to Text while Driving?

People seem much busier these days, with meetings, clients and demanding bosses forever wanting something. Parents have after school sports, tutor appointments, play dates and other social activities, not to mention all the errands and other work that goes into coordinating and running daily lives. Texting is possibly the quickest, most efficient way for people to communicate limited information, and some may wonder how they got by without it. Drivers can text when running late for a meeting, text when they need directions, text when time does not allow for a lengthy phone call or e-mail; not to mention all of the supposed-urgent reasons for teens to text their friends continually. Texting is here to stay, but there are unfortunate costs that come along with it.

Some Statistics

Surveys and statistics are starting to collect data regarding drivers and texting. So far the data show that, even with new laws and public awareness campaigns, drivers continue to use texting and other capabilities of mobile phones while operating vehicles. This includes e-mailing and Internet browsing as well. One study indicated that 81 percent of people driving on the roads use their mobile phones while at the wheel. According to a recent survey performed by AAA, one in seven people admitted they texted while operating a vehicle. In another study, performed by Safe Kids USA, results showed one in six persons driving vehicles in a school zone were visibly distracted due to the use of a cell phone for either texting or talking. Additionally, AAA recently collaborated with Seventeen magazine to perform a survey among teenage drivers. Turns out, about 86 percent, or almost 9 out of 10 teenagers admitted that they drive while distracted.

States are starting to pass laws making it illegal to text while driving. Many states collect vehicle crash data caused by distractions related specifically to mobile phone or other electronic equipment use. This is tracked on accident forms filed by the police. The federal government is encouraging remaining states to follow suit by requiring them to collect the same type of data in order to obtain certain types of federal funding.

Following are some statistics regarding states that have implemented cell phone and texting laws, from the Governors Highway Safety Association website. As of March 2011, 28 states plus the District of Columbia have banned all cell phones for novice drivers under 18 years of age. Eight states plus the District of Colombia and the Virgin Islands ban handheld units altogether while driving, for all drivers. Text messaging is banned in 30 states as well as District of Columbia and Guam, for all drivers. Currently, 34 states plus the District of Columbia and Virgin Islands collect data on crashes caused by distracted drivers.

Dangers of texting while operating a vehicle

According to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting is the most dangerous of all cell phone-related activities. This includes dialing, talking or reaching for a phone. Teenage drivers are four times as likely to get involved in a car crash or near crash than adults, due to texting or cell phone conversations. Car drivers dialing phone numbers on a cell phone have a 2.8 times higher chance of being involved in a crash than a driver who is not distracted.

One of the frightening statistics about drivers texting while operating their vehicles is the fact that truck drivers are doing it as well, and a large truck has the potential to cause very large accidents. In fact, truck drivers who text while driving are 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a driving accident than truckers who pay full attention to their driving.

What does this mean for Car Insurance?

Car insurance rates are based on a variety of factors, which vary depending on an individual driver’s situtaion. Some factors count more than others, but one of the more important factors that has the potential to increase car insurance prices is an individual’s driving record. One point for a minor speeding ticket is enough to cause auto insurance to increase significantly in price, and that point will stay on a driver’s record for three years.

Drivers may think they are safe from tickets because they drive the speed limit and do not roll through stop signs, run red lights or make illegal lane changes. However, as more states continue to outlaw texting while driving, or cell phone and handheld device use altogether, drivers may get additional points on their record for this new class of moving violations.

Unfortunately, as accidents increase and more insurance companies have to pay out, overall premiums go up for everyone. As more data involving the use of cell phones or other texting handheld devices has become more readily available, it is continuing to prove that cell phone and handheld device-use while driving is risky business for drivers. Insurance companies are aware of this, since it is their business to understand every risk involved with driving, and they perform statistical calculations on the likelihood of an accident in every scenario possible.

In 2009, almost 5,500 drivers were killed in the United States due to crashes involving distracted driving. Another 448,000 drivers or passengers sustained injuries. In 2007, cell phone use and text messaging among 16-to-17 year old drivers contributed to almost 1,000 crashes.

The statistics on crashes due to distracted driving encompass more than just texting or cell phone use; however, texting and cell phone use does cause a percentage of these types of accidents, and that percentage continues to grow. As more states provide data on the specific cause of crashes, and whether they involved texting or cell-phone use, the data will paint a clearer picture of the full amount of risk involved in driving while texting or otherwise using a mobile device, and chances are the numbers will only get worse.

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