Texting and driving: A dangerous mix - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Texting and driving: A dangerous mix

July 29, 2007

By: Cade Fowler

Albany -- It's a common and simple way to communicate on your cell phone, but some experts believe that convenient form of communication can be deadly if used while driving.

There are millions of text messages sent and received every minute via cell phones.

Add that with millions of drivers on the roadway and you can bet that there is a lot of texting going on while driving.

But while this may seem second nature to some drivers, one local expert says it could be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

In today's hi-tech, fast paced world, the text messaging craze has caught on quick.

"I'll send and receive about 30 text messages a day," said Catelyn Dake.

Whether you're sending or receiving, texting is quick and convenient. But alarming new research shows that young, often inexperienced drivers are texting behind the wheel at alarming and dangerous rates.

College student Katelyn Stewart began text messaging 5 years ago, a year longer than she's been driving.

When asked if she texted while driving, she said, "I do it a lot actually. It's dangerous, but it doesn't stop me."

But Katelyn's not alone. A recent survey conducted by Seventeen magazine and AAA of 1,000 16 and 17 year old drivers showed that 46% of teen drivers who admit to risky driving habits, claim to also text message while driving.

This comes on the heels of a car accident in New York state that claimed the lives of 5 recent high school graduates. Authorities say the driver, 17-year-old Bailey Goodman, sent and received text messages just moments before she swerved into the path of a tractor trailer.

Driving instructor Dave Roshio agrees that just like drinking and driving, texting and driving is also an unsafe combination.

"Its going to slow down your reaction time," he says.

To back up this claim, we conducted a low-speed, open course test to measure my own reaction time while texting behind the wheel at 10-miles-per-hour.

While sending a quick text message, I took my eyes off of the road for only two seconds. During that time I moved a total of 29 feet. Even at a low rate of speed, that could've meant disastrous consequences in a residential area. 

And the faster you drive, the longer it takes you to stop. If you're inattentive at high rates of speed, the end result could be deadly.

But even with cell phones playing an increasing roll in car accident, Roshio does not see sweeping legislation coming anytime soon.

"We see what happened in New York, and we could go ahead say we don't want this to happen here. So lets try and cut that down because this is what we want to do. But I don't see it happening," he said.

So far only the state of Washington has banned text messaging while driving.

In Georgia, Dekalb County has started sanctioning drivers where improper usage of a cell phone played a contributing factor in their accidents.

But with the death of 5 young girls making national headlines, you can bet other states will likely step up measures to prevent further accidents.

While there are no statistics that show how many deaths are caused each year from text messaging, a Harvard study indicated that cell phone use by drivers result in almost 2,600 hundred deaths a year.

It also estimates that cell phone users are 4 to 5 times more likely to have car crashes than non-users.

So before you send that quick text on the interstate just to say hello, remember that it could also mean goodbye.

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