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September 30th, 2009
11:19 AM ET

Study: Driving while texting riskier than DUI

Some drivers call it fallout from life on the road in the digital age: Texting while driving

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A study by the University of Utah found a driver is eight times more likely to crash while text messaging."]

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.

Study: Texting while driving more dangerous for truckers

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.”

Filed under: Transportation
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. John

    Not only texting for trucking industry. What about law enforcement I see many, many law enforcement officers on the phone talking and texting all the time also using their computer while driving to check on registration and tags. Will this new law be applicable to Law Enforcement???????????

    January 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm |
  2. mary k

    According to a survey released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fewer Americans are drinking and driving, but one in six drivers are driving while on drugs during the weekend. The data was released on Monday from a survey conducted in 2007....So now a days Driving while texting is riskier than DUI

    December 22, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  3. Kelly Chang

    I am surprised that people are so surprised about the risk of using ANY electronic device while driving. Come on we have so many electronic gadgets cramped into our dashboard, it's a miracle we're not all dead yet. We have 'handsfree' cell phone, GPS, laptops, in dashboard computers and whatever else. They all need some manual input at some point and every time you take your eyes off the road for a second or more, you are endangering my life. I say ban all those gadgets while the car is 'fired' up, it shoudln't even be running when using those devices. If it is really so important to twitter or tweet or whatever while you are on the road, it should be important enough to pull over and do it, if that is not important enough, it can wait until you are safely parked.

    October 5, 2009 at 8:49 am |
  4. Brigette

    One point I would like to make is I find it amazing how every time men and women who drive automobiles are going to have to follow much stricter laws, they instantly use fallacies to turn the focus back on the truckers, to avoid their own errors in judgment. I for one am tired of the stereotyping of the men and women who drive truck (tractor-trailer).

    Men and women whom drive tractor-trailer travel far more miles per year than any man, woman, or child travels in an automobile. Traveling millions of endless miles these men, and women often referred to as truckers, are the safest on the highway, compared to many men, and women traveling in automobiles. Instead of using rhetoric, and propaganda statistics to help persuade people to believe something is true when it is not, maybe people need to take a ride in a big truck for a couple days, to form their own opinion.

    Fact is men, and women who drive automobiles cannot stand they cannot play with their handheld toys while driving because they are killing innocent people on our nations highways. For once, the trucker was not to blame until the advocates turned the table to the trucker as a way to distract the attention away from his, or her self. Seems to me the men, and women who drive automobiles cannot not stand having the shoe on the other foot.

    I believe the truckers need to start jotting down license numbers and reporting men, and women they witness texting while driving. The ping will provide the truth. Quail-com usually shuts down when the truck is moving. Maybe the GPS systems built-in televisions and DVD players, should be removed as well.

    The image used in the trucker article was not of a man, or women texting in a semi truck. A trolley, a train, and semi are not one, and the same, to compare vehicles that run on tracks, to semis is not the same. Two weeks ago my son, was hit while driving tractor-trailer by a woman, who was texting at the time. I do not approve of turning the table from those people who drive automobiles, to the truckers.

    October 2, 2009 at 9:30 am |
  5. Angela

    I can't believe this is even debatable–texting while driving, seriously? Would you read a book or type a letter while driving? No. This is plain common sense and a nationwide ban needs to me implemented immediately. The use of navigational computers for truck drivers needs to limited to when the truck is stopped. Period.

    October 1, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  6. dave in des moines

    I saw your segment concerning truckers’ texting while driving. When your host mentioned how effective it is for cars to BEEP at you if you are not wearing your seatbelt. I had a thought. I do not know if this is just plain crazy or just not doable.
    There used to be a time that trucks did not BEEP when backing up. This feature was added later since it was a safety feature. Is it possible a new feature could be added to cars and semi trucks? Whenever a person is texting while driving, an annoying BEEPER will go off?
    Perhaps these sounds will warn drivers around them that the driver is not fully concentrating on their driving. In addition, this sound will be an added feature to prevent people from being tempted to use the cell phone while driving.

    October 1, 2009 at 8:26 am |
  7. wade / Canada

    I neglected to mention in my last post, That beginning October 26th strict laws will go into effect here in Canada regarding the use of handheld devices while driving! a five hundred dollar fine for first time offenders in the eastern provinces plus possible points on your Driver's Licence. I'm think it's a start but not a solution, people here will still take the chance. I really do not understand what can be that important.

    October 1, 2009 at 8:14 am |
  8. Ed

    On board truck computers can be programed to be deactivated while the vehicle is moving ..cell phones are another issue

    October 1, 2009 at 7:53 am |
  9. Ed

    Gun control should be taken away from the states. Federal rules should apply. This would give better control and regulation. Large data base for law enforcement and also give the legal gun owner the ability to take his firearm across state lines.

    October 1, 2009 at 7:49 am |
  10. wade/in Canada

    I have no idea why, That the D.O.T. and Law Enforcement have taken so long to come to the conclusion that talking or texting of the cell phone or other handheld device needs to be outlawed with very strict penalties for none compliance. How many people have to die because idiots are not paying attention to the road in front of them. Just about on a daily basis where I live in Canada I see people swerve all over the road, drift out of there proper lane and into your path. I don,t want to become a statistic because someone can,t pull over to make a call or send a message. I mean what did people do before this technology became available! Life was just fine, and much safer. Train accident (California) Tex ting engineer at controls. Washington D.C. Train accident ( controls set to Manual Mode) driver texting girlfriend. How can society continue to trust there life I the hands of incompetent Humans. It's scary to think that if you board a Train or Subway or other mode of transit, that the operator is on the ball or texting his wife asking what's for dinner! When are we going to wake up , this is a huge problem!

    October 1, 2009 at 7:45 am |
  11. joe gardner

    You should do some reporting and note just read provided talking points.what is the frequency of long haul trucker accidents as compared to passenger vehicles or airplanes? Why not find out if there is even a problem at all?

    October 1, 2009 at 6:35 am |
  12. Malcolm Montgomery

    I am vrey shocked and sraced for my life that this had happen over here it really never happans at all.

    September 30, 2009 at 3:41 pm |
  13. Tom

    Good story Jason. It's about time we brought this problem to the head of the line !!!

    September 30, 2009 at 12:40 pm |