Perils of Texting

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THE PERILS OF TEXTING Cell phones have become a staple of modern society. Nearly everyone has them, and people carry and use them at all hours of the day. For the most part, this is a good thing: the benefits of staying connected at any time and at any location are considerable. But if you’re like most Americans, you may regularly talk on the phone or even text while at the wheel of a car. This dangerous behavior has resulted in increasing numbers of accidents and fatalities caused by cell phone usage. The trend shows no sign of slowing down. In 2003, a federal study of 10,000 drivers by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) set out to determine the effects of using cell phones behind the wheel. The results were conclusive: talking on the phone is equivalent to a 10- point reduction in IQ and a .08 blood alcohol level, which law enforcement considers intoxicated. Handsfree sets were ineffective in eliminating risk, the study found, because the conversation itself is what distracts drivers, not holding the phone. Cell phone use caused 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents in 2002. Related studies indicated that drivers that talked on the phone while driving increased their crash risk fourfold, and drivers that texted while driving increased their crash risk by a whopping 23 times. Since that study, mobile device usage has grown by an order of magnitude, worsening this already dangerous situation. The number of wireless subscribers in America has increased by around 1,000 percent since 1995 to nearly 300 million overall in 2010, and Americans’ usage of wireless minutes increased by approximately 6,000 percent. This increase in cell phone usage has been accompanied by an upsurge in phone-related fatalities and accidents: In 2010, it’s estimated that texting caused 5,870 fatalities and 515,000 accidents, up considerably from prior years. These figures are roughly half of equivalent statistics for drunk driving. Studies show that drivers know that...
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