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The Dangers of Texting and Driving

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The consequences of texting and driving are becoming increasingly vital statistics among highway safety boards and automobile insurers. Nearly 90% of car crashes involve human error, and thousands of people die in car crashes caused by distracted driving. In many of these cases, the cause of the distraction was a driver sending or reading texts while driving.

Most states have now banned texting while driving, and drivers in those states that have done this can get a ticket for this offense. States that have not banned texting completely still have restrictions on texting. Those who cause a traffic-related death due to texting can spend time in prison.

Texting while driving statistics

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association estimated that there were 2,841 deaths due to distracted driving in 2018. This represents almost 8% of all fatal car crashes that year.

Given that studies show it takes about five seconds to read a text message, someone could drive the length of a football field while reading a text and driving at 55mph. Because so many things can happen in less than five seconds, such as a child running into the street or a car in front slamming on their breaks, those seconds are vital. That statistic makes it unsurprising that a 2018 study found that texting while driving doubled the chances of being involved in an accident.

The group with the largest number of deaths caused by distracted driving are teenagers, but not just distracted drivers get injured or killed because of texting and driving. Non-occupants like pedestrians and cyclists are also at risk.

How texting and driving affects insurance rates

There are many factors that are used by your insurance company to determine how much your car insurance will cost. Some of these factors include your credit score, age, driving history, neighborhood, vehicle and commute length.

But more insurance companies are starting to track their policyholders’ cell phone usage using satellite technology. Allstate uses a service called Arity to track their drivers’ use of cell phones while driving. After Arity tracked about 160 million trips, the company concluded that those who used cell phones while driving were at higher risk for accidents and tickets.

Other drivers’ behavior and cell phone habits can cause your insurance rates to rise because they can increase the risk of you getting into an accident with one of them. How much your rates can rise will again depend upon factors such as what state you live in and your insurance company.

Are laws making texting problems worse?

There is some concern that anti-texting laws may actually be contributing to the problem. Websites such as Drive.Safely.Net advocate the repeal of current texting and driving laws because they claim that they are only adding fuel to the fire. The website states that drivers who want to text now must hold their phones down below the steering wheel or in their laps, thus forcing them to take their eyes off the road.

The website goes on to argue that the current laws only make things worse because technology companies are reluctant to produce new products that allow for voice-to-text so that drivers can keep their eyes on the road. They hesitate because the current laws could make them liable for any accidents that happen as a result of their technology.

But other research is suggesting that the bans on cell phones at the state level are having a good effect. The American Journal of Public Health announced that research showed that the number of car accidents requiring hospitalization have dropped by about 7% in states that have instituted strict anti-texting laws between 2003 and 2010.

Frequently asked questions

Why is texting and driving so bad?

Texting takes the driver’s eyes and attention off the road and forces them to concentrate on something else, if only for a moment. It can be a constant distraction for drivers who have someone who keeps texting them while they are on the road.

What are the dangers of using a cell phone and driving?

Using a cell phone means that the driver can only have one hand on the wheel, which means that he or she cannot control the car as well. If you talk on a cell phone while driving, you can keep your eyes on the road, but your attention is still focused elsewhere.

Is texting and driving illegal?

Texting and driving is illegal in most states, and those that do not ban it completely have several restrictions on it. Some cities also have their own rules. Check what laws apply where you live, but regardless if it’s legal or not, don’t text and drive.

Written by
Mark Cussen
Contributing writer
Mark Cussen is a former contributing writer for Bankrate. Mark writes about a range of topics related to insurance.