An example of the danger of texting while driving occurred Saturday morning in Frostburg when a Hancock woman who was said to be reading text messages while behind the wheel crashed her vehicle.
The young woman, age 19, struck a parked vehicle and then traveled a short distance before her car rolled onto its roof. She apparently sustained no serious injuries and declined transportation to the hospital. She was charged with operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone, consumption of an alcoholic beverage under age 21, and negligent driving.
States have been writing laws dealing with texting and driving over the last couple of years.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports:
• In 2010 driver distraction was the cause of 18 percent of all fatal crashes — with 3,092 people killed, and crashes resulting in an injury — with 416,000 people wounded.
• Forty percent of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger, according to a Pew survey.
• The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.
• Eleven percent of drivers aged 18 to 20 who were involved in an automobile accident and survived admitted they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed.
Maryland’s legislature voted this year to make using a hand-held cell phone while driving a primary offense. Before now, police could not pull over a driver simply because the driver was using a hand-held phone. Use of hands-free phones is legal and will continue to be permitted.
A dozen states and the District of Columbia have laws banning use of hand-held phones while driving; only Maryland and West Virginia have made it a secondary offense. According to the Department of Legislative Services, West Virginia will start enforcing its law as a primary offense in July.
Highways are dangerous enough without drivers being distracted by hand-held cell phones and texting devices. Saturday morning’s Frostburg accident underscores what can go wrong when a driver has eyes riveted on a text message.