“Drive Hammered, Get Nailed,” and “Click It or Ticket” are Arizona initiatives that aim to advise drivers of the rules of the road, yet there is currently no campaign in place regulating texting while driving. Texting while driving is such a growing hazard that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have categorized it as “distracted driving.” However, Arizona has very loose laws preventing texting while driving. Although texting while driving is illegal in Phoenix’s city limits, it isn’t illegal statewide.
Texting while driving is a lethal combination because it involves three different distractions: visual, manual and cognitive, according to the CDC. These distractions interfere with the amount of brain activity necessary to operate a vehicle by reducing a driver’s reaction time, depth perception and cognitive awareness of the road conditions and the surrounding environment.
Ironically, these are the exact same functions that are impaired by alcohol. Distraction from cell phone use while driving — handheld or hands-free — extends a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent, according to a study conducted at the University of Utah. A driver’s reaction rate is one of the most important factors in motor vehicle collisions and may make the difference between life and death. It takes two seconds for your brain to react to the situation and tell your body to make a braking movement; therefore, any distraction resulting in a delay of reaction time makes you a danger on the roadway.
National statistics illustrate that driving while distracted is a factor in more than 25 percent of police-reported crashes. Texting while driving does not just cause automobile accidents, it also puts pedestrians, road cyclists, motorcyclists and others in severe danger.
There are many simple precautions that drivers can take in order to protect themselves and others from a vehicle collision.
First and foremost, keep your cell phone in a location that is out of your reach and out of sight; this will reduce the temptation to check your phone while behind the wheel … even at a red light! Individuals who use a cell phone while driving are four times more likely to get into crashes that are serious enough to injure themselves, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Parents of teenage drivers must set a good example and not use a phone while driving. Teenagers are the highest at-risk group of being affected by the dangers of texting while driving as they are inexperienced on the road and may have more distractions. The CDC statistics exemplify that younger, inexperienced drivers have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes, prompting many states to ban drivers younger than 18 years old from using their cell phone while driving.
The statistics regarding the dangers of texting while driving are eye-opening and should empower Arizonans to think before they pick up their phones while behind the wheel.