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|The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with North America and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (November 2012)|
Texting while driving is the act of composing, sending, reading text messages, email, or making other similar use of the web on a mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle. The practice has been viewed by many people and authorities as dangerous. It has also been ruled as the cause of some motor vehicle accidents, and in some places has been outlawed or restricted. Texting while driving leads to increased distraction behind the wheel. In 2006, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group conducted a survey of more than 90 teens from more than 26 high schools nationwide. The results showed that 37% of students consider texting to be "very" or "extremely" distracting. A study by the American Automobile Association discovered that 46% of teens admitted to being distracted behind the wheel because of texting. This distraction is alarming, because 40% 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. The risk of crashing while texting increases by 23 times, because reading or sending a text diverts the driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds—the same as driving the length of a football field, blind, at 55 mph.
Although talking on a mobile phone while operating a vehicle is considered dangerous, the threat increased as Short Message Service, or texting, became popular. Texting has become a social norm fairly quickly since the year 2000, as most cell phone plans include a text messaging package. The popularity of smartphones, which allow people to communicate in even more ways, increases the likelihood of usage. It cannot be contested that text messaging and other forms of text communication on mobile phones offer a level of convenience that cannot be matched. The dilemma is at what point do we chose safety over convenience. Many studies have linked texting while driving to the cause of life-threatening accidents due to driver distraction. The International Telecommunication Union states that “texting, making calls, and other interaction with in-vehicle information and communication systems while driving is a serious source of driver distraction and increases the risk of traffic accidents”.
A 2010 experiment with Car and Driver magazine editor Eddie Alterman that took place at a deserted air strip showed that texting while driving had a greater impact on safety than driving drunk. While legally drunk, Alterman's stopping distance from 70 mph increased by 4 feet; by contrast, reading an e-mail added 36 feet, and sending a text added 70 feet. While celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey have campaigned against texting while driving, there are reports that the message has not been getting through to teenagers.
In the UK in 2008, Gwent Police worked with film maker Peter Watkins-Hughes and production company Zipline Creative to create the graphic short film "Cow", as part of a campaign to stop texting while driving. The film earned honors in the Advertising Age's weekly Creativity Top 5 videos and became an overnight worldwide internet hit after being shown on the American news program The Today Show.
The scientific literature on the dangers of driving while sending a text message from a mobile phone, or driving while texting, is limited. A simulation study at the Monash University Accident Research Centre provided strong evidence that retrieving and, in particular, sending text messages has a detrimental effect on a number of safety-critical driving measures. Specifically, negative effects were seen in detecting and responding correctly to road signs, detecting hazards, time spent with eyes off the road, and (only for sending text messages) lateral position. Mean speed, speed variability, lateral position when receiving text messages, and following distance showed no difference. A separate, yet unreleased simulation study at the University of Utah found a sixfold increase in distraction-related accidents when texting.
The low number of scientific studies may be indicative of a general assumption that if talking on a mobile phone increases risk, then texting also increases risk, and probably more so. 89% of U.S. adults think that text messaging while driving is "distracting, dangerous and should be outlawed." The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has released polling data that show that 87% of people consider texting and e-mailing while driving a "very serious" safety threat, almost equivalent to the 90% of those polled who consider drunk driving a threat. Despite the acknowledgement of the dangers of texting behind the wheel, about half of drivers 16 to 24 say they have texted while driving, compared with 22 percent of drivers 35 to 44. Texting while driving received greater attention in the late 2000s, corresponding to a rise in the number of text messages being sent. The 2008 Will Smith movie Seven Pounds deals with Smith's character committing suicide in order to donate his organs to help save the lives of seven people to make up for the seven people he killed in a car accident because he was receiving a text message while he was driving. Texting while driving attracted interest in the media after several highly publicized car crashes were caused by texting drivers, including a May 2009 incident involving a Boston trolley car driver who crashed while texting his girlfriend. Texting was blamed in the 2008 Chatsworth train collision which killed 25 passengers. Investigations revealed that the engineer of that train had sent 45 text messages while operating. Despite these incidents, texting was still on the rise. A July 2010 Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll found 25% of New Jersey voters admitted to sending a text while driving, which was an increase from 15% in 2008. This increase could be attributed to drivers over the age of 30 sending text messages. More than 35% of New Jersey drivers aged 30 to 45 and 17% of drivers over 45 admitted to having sent a text message while driving in the last year, an increase of 5–10% from 2008. Several studies have attempted to compare the dangers of texting while driving with driving under the influence. One such study was conducted by Car and Driver magazine in June 2009. The study, carried out at the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport in Oscoda, Michigan, used two drivers in real cars and measured reaction times to the onset of light on the windshield. The study compared the reaction times and distances of the subjects while reading a text message, replying to the text message, and impaired. The study showed that at 35 mph, reading a text message decreased the reaction time the most, 0.12 and 0.87 seconds. Impaired driving at the same speed resulted in an increase of 0.01 and 0.07 seconds. In terms of stopping distances these times were estimated to mean:
On Sept. 29, 2010, the insurance industry’s Highway Loss Data Institute released research purporting to show that texting-while-driving bans in four states failed to reduce crashes and may instead have contributed to an increase in road accidents. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the study "completely misleading".
In March 2012 the UK's Institute of Advanced Motorists published a study which claimed that using smartphones for social networking while driving is more dangerous than drink-driving or being high on cannabis.
On July 27, 2009, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute released preliminary findings of their study of driver distraction in commercial vehicles. Several naturalistic driving studies, of long-haul trucks as well as lighter vehicles driving six million combined miles, used video cameras to observe the drivers and road. Researchers observed 4,452 "safety-critical" events, which includes crashes, near crashes, safety-critical events, and lane deviations.81% of the "safety-critical" events involved some type of driver distraction. Text messaging had the greatest relative risk, with drivers of heavy vehicles or trucks being more than 23 times more likely to experience a safety-critical event when texting. The study also found that drivers typically take their eyes off the forward roadway for an average of four out of six seconds when texting, and an average of 4.6 out of the six seconds surrounding safety-critical events. The study revealed that when traveling at 55 miles per hour (89 km/h), a driver texting for 6 seconds is looking at the phone for 4.6 seconds of that time and travels the distance of a football field without their eyes on the road. Some of VTTI's conclusions from this study included that "texting should be banned in moving vehicles for all drivers", and that "all cell phone use should be banned for newly licensed teen drivers". The results of the study are listed in the table below.
|Cell phone task||Risk of crash or near event crash|
|Light Vehicle Dialing||2.8 times as high as non‐distracted driving|
|Light Vehicle Talking/Listening||1.3 times as high as non‐distracted driving|
|Light Vehicle Reaching for object (i.e. electronic device...)||1.4 times as high as non‐distracted driving|
|Heavy Vehicles/Trucks Dialing||5.9 times as high as non‐distracted driving|
|Heavy Vehicles/Trucks Talking/Listening||1.0 times as high as non‐distracted driving|
|Heavy Vehicles/Trucks Use/Reach for electronic device||6.7 times as high as non‐distracted driving|
|Heavy Vehicles/Trucks Text messaging||23.2 times as high as non‐distracted driving|
In 2011 Shutko and Tijerina reviewed large naturalistic studies on cars (Dingus and Klauer, 2008; Klauer et al., 2006; Young and Schreiner, 2009), heavy good vehicles (Olsen at el, 2008) and commercial vehicles and buses (Hickman et al., 2010) and in field operational tests (Sayer et al., 2005, 2007), and concluded:
A number of countries ban all cell phone use while driving (talking and texting).
All provinces and the Northwest Territories have banned both talking on hand-held phones and texting while driving. The country's other two territories, Nunavut, and Yukon, have yet to enact bans.
In 2010, the province of Alberta introduced Bill 16 - Alberta's first distracted driving legislation. While the bill is not law yet, the government and several media outlets have publicly discussed what will and won't be allowed under the law.
Any use of a mobile phone is forbidden as long as the vehicle's engine is running. This does however not apply to hand-free devices, provided that the driver does not become distracted.
Any use of a mobile phone is forbidden if the vehicle is moving. This does not apply, however, to hands-free devices.
Based on results of a study by the Swedish Government it was found that texting (along with talking) while driving does not significantly impair driving ability. Since 22 December 2012 it has not been an offense to text while driving.
Any use of a hand-held mobile phone or similar device while driving, or supervising a learner driver, is illegal. This includes when stopped at traffic lights. The only exceptions are emergency calls to 999 or 112.
Texting while driving has been outlawed or is soon to be outlawed for all drivers in the following states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada. New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The state of Texas prohibits school bus drivers from texting while transporting a child under 17. The states of Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas and West Virginia have laws restricting those who are underage and/or with learner's permits from texting while driving. Laws enacted in Kentucky in 2010, Indiana in 2011 and Ohio in 2012 banned texting for all drivers, as well as cell phone usage by all drivers under 18. The latter feature is unusual in that holders of unrestricted licenses are subject to the ban; most states that have banned cell phone usage by young drivers apply their laws only to holders of restricted or graduated licenses.
In Florida, a proposed bill known as "Heather's Law" would ban all cell phone use while driving. The law was inspired by the death of Heather Hurd, who was killed in an accident allegedly caused by a truck driver who crashed into 10 cars when he was sending a text message behind the wheel.
On October 1, 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced President Barack Obama's signing of an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles, among other activities. According to Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood, “This order sends a very clear signal to the American public that distracted driving is dangerous and unacceptable. It shows that the federal government is leading by example." As a part of a larger move to combat distracted driving, the DOT and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched the public information website distraction.gov.
On January 26, 2010, the US Department of Transportation announced a federal ban on texting while driving by truckers and bus drivers.
|Alabama||8/1/12||Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers. Ban on texting for all drivers.||Penalties include a $25 fine for the first offense, increasing to $50 and $75 and two points on the driver's license.|||
|Alaska||September 1, 2008|
May 11, 2012
|House Bill 8 prohibits drivers from using electronic devices with a visual display (e.g. televisions or computers) while driving. The law does not specify cell phones, though it can be interpreted this way, and is seen as a ban on texting and driving. HB 255 was signed into law 11 May 2012 and specifically targets "cell phone texting". The previous 2008 HB 8 and 2012 HB 255 laws do provide for exceptions, such a caller ID usage while making a voice phone call and using GPS devices.||not specified||For the 2008 HB 8, violators are guilty of misdemeanor. If death is caused by violation, violator is guilty of a felony. For the 2012 HB 255, violators are guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor (same as DUI) and can result in a $250 to $500 fine for first-time offenders, but could result in jail time. (Need Citation)|||
2008 HB 8
2012 HB 255
|Arkansas||October 2009||All drivers, regardless of age or experience, prohibited from sending text messages while driving||Known as HB1013 or "Paul's Law." Exempts emergency service providers in the provision of services.|||
|California||January 1, 2009||Prohibits sending electronic text messages while driving||$20 first offense|
$50 each subsequent offense
|Colorado||December 1, 2009||Prohibits sending text messages, email, or tweets while driving||$50 first offense|
$100 second offense
|Also prohibits drivers under 18 from talking on a cellphone while driving|||
|Connecticut||October 1, 2006||All handheld cell phone use banned||$100 first offense|
$150 second offense
$250 third or subsequent offense
|Also prohibits drivers under 18 and school bus drivers carrying passengers from talking on a cellphone while driving|||
|Delaware||January 2, 2011||Illegal for all drivers||$50 first offense|
$100 second offense
$200 third or subsequent offense
|Also prohibits drivers under 18 from talking on cell phones while driving|||
|District of Columbia||All handheld cell phone use banned|
|Georgia||July 1, 2010||Prohibits writing, sending, or reading any text-based communication, including via internet; also prohibits drivers under 18 with provisional licenses from talking on cell phones while driving.||Up to $150|||
|Hawaii||Illegal to use most electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle|
|Idaho||July 1, 2012||Illegal for all drivers||$81.50|||
|Illinois||January 1, 2010||Illegal for all drivers|
|Indiana||July 1, 2011||All drivers prohibited from reading or sending text messages. Drivers under 18 prohibited from using cell phones for any purpose. Up to $500 fine.|||
|Iowa||July 1, 2010||All drivers prohibited from reading, writing, and sending text messages.|
|Kansas||May 24, 2010||Illegal for all drivers||Warnings until January 1, 2011. After that date: $60|
|Kentucky||July 15, 2010||House Bill 415 prohibits the following: ||Warnings until January 1, 2011. After that date: ||Drivers 18 and over allowed to read, select, and enter phone numbers or names in order to make a call. All drivers allowed to use GPS features, and drivers 18 and over allowed to enter data for GPS purposes at all times.|||
|Louisiana||August 15, 2010||SB9 prohibits the following: Text messaging ban for all drivers.||Primary enforcement begins Aug. 15, 2010: ||Drivers under 18 years old may not use wireless devices — including cell phones, text-messaging units and computers — while operating motor vehicles |
|Maine||September 26, 2011||Prohibits texting while driving||Fine of $100 for first offense|
|Maryland||July 1, 2009||Prohibits writing or sending text messages while operating motor vehicle or while in the travel portion of the roadway.||Fine up to $500||Exception for use of GPS or emergency situations.|||
|Massachusetts||July 6, 2010||Prohibits drivers from sending a text or instant message, use of electronic mail, Internet access, using a phone for GPS navigation, and all of the above on electronic devices including phones, laptops, pagers, or other hand-held devices||First offense: $100, second offense: $250, and 3rd offense: $500; If one is under 18, 1st offense: $100 fine in addition to a 60-day license suspension, and attend a mandatory "attitude" class. 2nd offense: $250 fine and a 180-day suspension. 3rd offense: $500 fine and a-one year suspension.||GPSs are still allowed. Use of a phone is banned to all people under 18. Once 18, a driver can make hands-free calls. Also, the bill requires anyone over 75 to get a driving test every five years and take a vision test.|||
|Michigan||July 1, 2010||Reading, typing, or sending while vehicle is moving||$100 first offense|
$200 each subsequent offense
|Exception for use of GPS or emergency situations.|||
|Minnesota||August 1, 2008||Any form of text messaging while driving is illegal, and is considered a petty misdemeanor statewide.||Up to $300.||Also prohibits drivers under 18 from talking on a cellphone while driving; GPS and cell phone usage still allowed.|||
|Mississippi||Illegal for learner's permit and intermediate license holders and school bus drivers|
|Missouri||Illegal for children, teens and adults younger than 21. Legal for citizens over the age of 21.||$200||This is a Primary Law, which means that the driver can receive a ticket for the violation without other traffic violations taking place (such as speeding).|
|Nebraska||Illegal for all drivers|
|Nevada||July 1, 2011||All cell phone and GPS usage is illegal||$50 First offense, $100 second offense, $250 and six-month license suspension|
|New Hampshire||January 2010||Illegal for all drivers|
|New Jersey||March 1, 2008||Using handheld or texting while driving is illegal, hands-free are not permitted for GDL holders||Between $100 and $250|
|New Mexico||Illegal for learner's permit holders and intermediate license holders|
|New York||2009||No person shall operate a motor vehicle while using any portable electronic device while such vehicle is in motion."Using" shall mean holding a portable electronic device while viewing, taking or transmitting images, playing games, or composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages, or other electronic data.||Fine up to $150 plus mandatory $85 surcharge fees. Violation also carries 3 driver violation points.||Does not apply to (a) the use of a portable electronic device for the sole purpose of communicating with any of the following regarding an emergency situation: an emergency response operator; a hospital; a physician's office or health clinic; an ambulance company or corps; a fire department, district or company; or a police department, (b) any of the following persons while in the performance of their official duties: a police officer or peace officer; a member of a fire department, district or company; or the operator of an authorized emergency vehicle as defined in section one hundred one of this chapter.|| |
|North Carolina||December 1, 2009||Illegal for all drivers||Fine of up to $100 plus $130 in court fees. No points added to license.|| |
|North Dakota||August 1, 2011||Illegal for all drivers|||
|Ohio||(House Bill 99, signed into law June 1, 2012, will go into effect August 28, 2012, 90 days after signing)||Illegal for all drivers ||$150 fine, license suspension||The use of any handheld device by drivers under the age of 18 is illegal.|||
|Oklahoma||Illegal for learner's permit holders, intermediate license holders, school bus drivers and public transit drivers|
|Oregon||January 2010||House Bill 2377 prohibits all drivers from using a mobile communication device while operating a motor vehicle. A mobile communication device is defined as "a text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device designed to receive and transmit voice or text communication." |
House Bill 2872 prohibits drivers that are under 18 years of age from using any type of mobile communication device such as a cell-phone. This includes text-messaging and does not allow for hands-free operation of a cell-phone. This law applies if you are under 18 and driving with a provisional drivers license, a special student driver permit, or an instruction driver permit.
|Minimum fine of $142.00||HB 2377 exempts use of hands-free devices by all drivers 18 and over; some drivers who use a mobile communications device while driving if the vehicle is necessary for the person’s job; and some drivers who use radios (CB-style) while in the scope of their employment.|||
|Pennsylvania||March 8, 2012||Illegal||$50 fine|||
|Rhode Island||2009||Illegal for all drivers|
|South Carolina||(no restriction)|
|South Dakota||(no restriction)|
|Tennessee||July 1, 2009||All drivers prohibited from transmitting or reading a written message while vehicle is in motion||Up to $50|
Plus court costs not to exceed $10
|Also known as Senate Bill 393.|||
|Texas||September 1, 2009||Cell phone usage is prohibited in school zones||$50 for school zones where posted||Operators of passenger buses may not use a cell phone if minors are on board as well as drivers in the intermediate stage for the first 12 months are also banned. Austin TX, texting while driving is banned effective Jan 2010|||
|Utah||May 2009||Illegal||First Offence: Class C misdemeanor |
Second Offence: Class B misdemeanor Automatic Class B misdemeanor if the person inflicted serious bodily injury upon another as a proximate result of using a handheld wireless communication device for text messaging or electronic mail communication while operating a moving motor vehicle
|Vermont||June 1, 2010|||
|Virginia||2009||Illegal for all drivers|
|Washington||2010||Illegal for all drivers||The fine for the offense is $124||text messaging or cell phone use without a hands free device is a primary offense||Do Not Text and Drive putting others at risk.|
|West Virginia||Illegal for drivers younger than 18 who hold either a learner's permit or an intermediate license|
|Wisconsin||December 1, 2010||Signed into Law: May 5, 2010||Wisconsin DOT|
|Wyoming||July 1, 2010||Sending message from any electronic device while driving declared illegal.||$75 for first offense.|
In 2009 it was reported that some companies, including iZUP, ZoomSafer, Aegis Mobility, and cellcontrol by obdEdge employ systems that place restrictions on cell phone usage based on the phone’s GPS signal, data from the car itself or from nearby cellphone towers. Also, companies like TextNoMore offer an opt-in solution that rewards users for activating.
The use of telematics to detect drunk driving and texting while driving has been proposed. A US patent application combining this technology with a usage based insurance product was open for public comment on peer to patent. The insurance product would not ban texting while driving, but would charge drivers who text and drive a higher premium.
In addition to technological solutions to address the issue of texting while driving, drivers may consciously read and sign a pledge to never text while driving. After drivers read and sign the pledge, they remember their pledge each time they have an urge to text while driving. While there is not a fix all solution to this problem, each and every small initiative helps. The pledge can be found at I Will Not Text and Drive.
One argument against banning texting while driving is that it is safe and helpful under some circumstances. For example, a driver in a traffic jam might safely, and usefully, send a text message rescheduling an appointment. In addition, products like FleetSafer, MobileSafer and TeenSafer are now available in Canada that suppress the use of cell phone keyboards and screens, prohibiting texting, emailing or browsing. However, ZoomSafer safe driving products permit calls to be made using Bluetooth in-vehicle or other devices in a hands free manner reducing the associated risks of distracted driving. Using MobileSafer and VoiceMate also permits the sending of voice messages to other parties.
Another argument can be made against the wording of the texting bans. Instead of banning the act of writing or reading that distracts a person from driving, such as reading a book, writing notes on a piece of paper or writing text using a keyboard of a phone, the laws mostly ban the act of sending text messages and do not say anything about how the messages were created. Using voice recognition technology, text messages can be created with eyes and hands free, and without ever engaging in the act of reading or writing.