If a survey taken by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is accurate, there is a frightening amount of texting going on behind the wheel — despite dire warnings about the danger involved.
The Washington Post reports that the survey found more than 40 percent of drivers between 19 and 39 say they text while they drive. Ten percent of those said they text regularly. Overall, the survey found that 26 percent of drivers said they text and 6 percent said they did so frequently. Sixty-seven percent said they talk on their phones while driving, 28 percent of them regularly.
The AAA foundation survey describes the driving while texting problem as “inattention blindness.” A driver might see something that should trigger caution, but the realization doesn’t register in time for the driver to react by braking or swerving to safety. The study also found that voice-activated devices that allow drivers to listen to or send text messages without touching their mobile device are not effective in reducing distraction.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distracted driving was to blame in about 10 percent of all crashes and 387,000 injuries in 2011. An estimated 660,000 Americans use electronic devices while driving at any moment during daylight hours, and most people say they recognize the risk posed by distracted driving, according to the Post report.
Maryland and most other states have enacted laws cracking down on texting and cellphone use while driving. Nevertheless, a high percentage of drivers blatantly ignore the laws and the dangers of distracted driving.
We don’t pretend to have a solution to the problem. Repeated public safety messages and a vigorous enforcement of the driving laws are probably the best way to finally convince drivers to put away phones and do only one thing while they are behind the wheel — drive safely.