Some drivers call it fallout from life on the road in the digital age: Texting while driving
A graphic public service announcement produced in the UK on the subject and widely seen on the Web in the United States illustrated the deadly results.
This issue is now the subject of a distracted driving summit in Washington D.C., drawing safety experts and leaders from the across the country.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says organizers hope to develop recommendations for reducing the problem.
“I think what we are attempting to do is raise the public awareness about how unsafe it is to text and drive and then also talk with folks about the way forward in terms of some solutions…”
Groups like the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA) plan to attend the summit. The group initially came out against laws banning texting while driving but then did an about-face after meeting with the group's members, who saw that violent PSA and some alarming studies.
“I think that as a result of those discussions a decision was made to readjust our policy…” says Vernon Betkey Jr., chairman GHSA.
Summit attendees will have access to recent studies like the one from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which found a truck driver's risk of accident is 23 times higher while text messaging.
A study by Professor David Strayer at the University of Utah found another disturbing result.
“Text messaging is a level of impairment that exceeds what we see with someone who is driving while they’re drunk,” says Strayer.
Strayer's researchers found a driver with an alcohol level of .08 – legally drunk in most states – is four times more likely to crash.
When texting, that driver is eight times more likely to crash.
Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving. Secretary LaHood believes more will follow.
“There is a great deal of interest on the part of the legislative branch not only here in Washington but out around the states and I believe sooner rather than later there will be some very good laws to address this very serious problem.”