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Mark J. Williams
Mark J. Williams
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Texting By Drivers Proven to Be Extreme Hazard

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In an article from the New York Times, July 28, 2009, it was revealed from an 18 month study of truck drivers that texting by big rig drivers is a much greater safety risk on the road than previously thought. The Times reported:

The new study, which entailed outfitting the cabs of long-haul trucks with video cameras over 18 months, found that when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which compiled the research and plans to release its findings on Tuesday, also measured the time drivers took their eyes from the road to send or receive texts.

In the moments before a crash or near crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices — enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field.

Another recent study by the University of Utah found texting to cause even greater distraction: nearly eight seconds diversion of attention by drivers.

The overwhelming message of these studies: DON’T TEXT WHILE DRIVING! Multi-tasking is a myth or, at least, a gross exageration. A driver cannot pay attention to road in front of his/her vehicle unless that driver actualy looks at the road, and is directing his/her attention on that task. Even those texters who can do it by feel have their attention directed toward the composition of the text.

Utah has taken this matter seriously and has recently passed a law, now being enforced, that makes texting while driving a crime:

West’s Utah Code Annotated Currentness

Title 41. Motor Vehicles

Chapter 6A. Traffic Code (Refs & Annos)

Part 17. Miscellaneous Rules

§ 41-6a-1716. Prohibition on using a handheld wireless communication device for text messaging communication while operating a moving motor vehicle–Penalties

(1) As used in this section:

(a)(i) “Handheld wireless communication device” means a handheld device used for the transfer of information without the use of electrical conductors or wires.

(ii) “Handheld wireless communication device” includes a:

(A) wireless telephone;

(B) personal digital assistant;

(C) pager; or

(D) text messaging device.

(b) “ Text messaging” has the same meaning as defined in Section 76-4-401.

(2) Except as provided in Subsection (3), a person may not use a handheld wireless communication device for text messaging or electronic mail communication while operating a moving motor vehicle on a highway in this state.

(3) Subsection (2) does not prohibit a person from using a handheld wireless communication device while operating a moving motor vehicle:

(a) during a medical emergency;

(b) when reporting a safety hazard or requesting assistance relating to a safety hazard;

(c) when reporting criminal activity or requesting assistance relating to a criminal activity;

(d) when providing roadside or medical assistance; or

(e) when used by a law enforcement officer or emergency service personnel acting within the course and scope of the law enforcement officer’s or emergency service personnel’s employment.

(4) A person convicted of a violation of this section is guilty of a:

(a) class C misdemeanor; or

(b) class B misdemeanor if the person:

(i) has also inflicted serious bodily injury upon another as a proximate result of using a handheld wireless communication device for text messaging or electronic mail communication while operating a moving motor vehicle on a highway in this state; or

(ii) has a prior conviction under this section, that is within three years of:

(A) the current conviction under this section; or

(B) the commission of the offense upon which the current conviction is based.

Hopefully, this law and others similar to it in other states, will begin to educate the drivers of the huge risk that texting poses while driving. Once these studies are published and more widely disseminated, we hope this dangerous trend will be abated. Safety on the road is much more important than "being connected." No doubt this law and these studies will serve as additional evidence of negligence in civil lawsuits for injuries and damages caused by texting drivers.

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  1. carly says:
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    Need legislation to ban texting. There is a related post at http://iamsoannoyed.com/?page_id=588