Banning Texting while Driving

By Paul Gagliardi

Texting while driving (TWD) has been in the news as state legislatures across the country are banning the practice.   According to the Governors Highway Safety Association a total of 19 states including the District of Columbia have effectively banned all drivers from TWD and Wisconsin is poised to join this growing list of states.

TWD is being banned because it is a very dangerous practice. The Pediatric Academic Societies conducted a study of teens texting in a driving simulator.  They found teens who sent text messages while driving were distracted, wove in and out of their lanes, changed driving speeds dramatically posing a clear danger to other drivers and pedestrians.  In fact, some teens actually ran over pedestrians during the study.

In another study, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers who were texting were 23 times more at risk of a “crash or near crash event” than “nondistracted” drivers.  The study found that “texting took a driver’s focus away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds – enough time to travel the length of a football field at 55 mph.”

Finally, the Transport Research Laboratory in the U.K. found that when subjects were TWD, reaction speed was reduced by 35 percent, thereby increasing the likelihood of a crash. In addition, the study found that those that were TWD reduced their steering ability by 91 percent. 

There is no question that teens are the highest risk group for TWD.  According to one survey, “the average U.S. mobile teen now sends or receives an average of 2,899 text-messages per month.” A large number of teens admit to TWD, taking their chances while endangering themselves and the lives of other road users and pedestrians.

This is a huge problem for all drivers, but puts teens directly at risk.  Teens are four times more likely than older drivers to be involved in a crash. Already motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death for people between 16 and 20.  According to the CDC more than 5,000 teens die in motor vehicle accidents each year.

Recent high profile accidents illustrate the dangers of TWD.  In Los Angeles, a Metrolink train engineer was texting messages right before a crash that killed 25 people, including the engineer.  Similarly a subway operator admitted he was texting his girlfriend when he rammed his train into the one ahead of his in Massachusetts.  Almost 50 people were sent to the hospital. These deaths and injuries clearly show TWD is a very unsafe practice.

We salute the work of the Wisconsin Legislature, particularly Rep. Peter Barca (Kenosha), Assembly sponsor, and Senators John Lehman (Racine) and Alan Lasee (DePere), Senate sponsors, in passing legislation to prohibit TWD.  For the safety of all Wisconsin drivers, the ban cannot happen soon enough.

Paul Gagliardi is the President of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, the state’s largest statewide voluntary bar organization. WAJ is committed to a fair and effective justice system that ensures justice for all, not just the privileged few. 


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