Txt U L8r: Distracted Driving Continues to Cause Wrecks and Injuries

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Despite attempts by numerous State Legislatures, including the Georgia General Assembly, to reduce distracted driving by making it illegal and imposing heavy fines on those who violate those laws, distracted driving continues to cause wrecks and personal injuries. The Georgia Legislature made illegal texting while driving (TWD) and yet I personally observe many Georgia drivers still holding their phones or Blackberries at the top of their steering wheels texting while driving, often at high rates of speed, on Ga. 400, the Downtown Connector, I-75 and I-85. It is infuriating.

A study by Virginia Tech Driving Institute revealed that those who resort to texting while driving are 23 times more likely to meet with an accident. A comparative study of texting while driving versus drunk driving statistics published in a leading car magazine in the United States revealed that texting while driving is even more dangerous than drunk driving. Studies reveal that a person who is texting while driving at the speed of 35 mph will cover 25 feet before bringing the car to a complete halt as compared to a distance of 4 feet which a drunk driver would cover at the same speed. According to the texting while driving death statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5,870 people died in car crashes in 2008 alone. The same statistics revealed that 515,000 people were injured in various car crashes in the United States. Around 28 percent of all crashes in 2008 were caused by drivers in the age group of 18 and 29, who admitted to texting while driving. The popular belief, that the number of teenagers texting while driving is more as compared to adults, got a major blow when the texting while driving statistics 2010 compiled by Pew Research Center revealed that 47 percent of the adults resort to texting as compared to 34 percent of the teenagers. The same stats revealed that 75 percent of the adults resort to phone conversation while driving as compared to 52 percent of the teenagers.

There are numerous tools a driver has at his or her disposal now to prevent distracted driving. One such tool is an application you download on your phone that reads an incoming text to you, either on your phone’s speaker or your bluetooth device. For example, I have downloaded on my Blackberry an app called “Txt U L8r.” It is a free app created by Car and Driver and Chrysler that reads any incoming text to you while you are driving. I use a Bluetooth hands free device while driving and so this app reads an incoming text to me through my Bluetooth device. The app turns on automatically whenever I turn on my Bluetooth. I have to listen to a brief advertisement first that simply says “This message is brought to you by Chrysler” and then a nice voice reads the text. Then that same app sends an automatic reply text that reads: “I heard your message read by the Car and Driver Txt U L8r app and will get back to you when I’m done driving. Drive Safely. Sponsored by Chrysler.” I have received many compliments about using this app. Every time a friend of mine receives it in response to a text they send me, it sets a good example and makes folks think about what they are doing to eliminate distracted driving.

The Chrysler Txt U L8r app is just one of several free apps on my Blackberry. You can also download this free Car and Driver app from the internet. There are probably similar apps on your phone. Just browse the available apps and download onto your phone a similar app that will help you eliminate distracted driving. A simple Google search finds numerous texting while driving apps, e.g., Drivesafe.ly.com. There also apps that forcibly stop your teenager from texting while driving. Some of these apps work by disabling your phone’s ability to text while driving. Even some major insurance carriers, like State Farm Automobile Insurance Company, are getting into the act with their very own texting while driving apps in an effort to eliminate distracted driving and thereby eliminating car wrecks.

With so many free tools at our disposal, TWD (texting while driving) has GTG (got to go). It will save lives.