Sending text messages is now standard on all cell phones sold, and it has become an increasingly popular method of quick communication. Text messaging is also referred to as "short message service" or simply SMS. These messages are created by a user on the cell phone's keypad, and viewed on the phone's display screen. The cost per SMS is generally around $0.15, although this varies for each cell phone carrier and can be packaged into an existing billing plan. Billions of these abbreviated messages are sent to cell phone users worldwide. For New Years Eve alone, Verizon Wireless estimated that its users would send and receive over 300 million text messages between the hours of noon and 4 a.m.
A new phenomenon that is being observed on our roadways is called driving while texting. This combination of two separate activities is proving to be an impediment to traffic safety, and is surprisingly common. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that a Nationwide Insurance study estimated 20 percent of wireless phone subscribers send or receive text messages while driving, and a Zogby poll found that 66 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 engage in the activity.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that driver inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near-crashes. Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event. The NHTSA also reports that the most common distraction for drivers is the use of cell phones. Talking or listening on a hand-held device increased the risk of a crash or near-crash 1.3 times. Dialing a hand-held device increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by almost three times.
Although few statistics that address the specific hazard of driving while texting exist currently, a growing awareness of the issue throughout the United States may signal it is time Indiana took steps to address this dangerous activity.
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