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Prohibitions against texting while driving have spread across the United States and other nations like wildfire. Unfortunately, few drivers – especially those under the age of 30 – adhere to those laws. Consider these use trends and facts before you let your fingers do the driving.

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Percentages

While four of every 10 drivers admit to talking on a mobile phone without a hands-free device or function, 20 percent of drivers freely admit they ignore the ban on texting while driving. Law enforcement estimate that percentage is grossly under-reported. A compilation of state and federal studies note the higher estimate at much closer to 60 percent with the lower number associated with fear of prosecution or insurance policy penalties.

Driving Influence

Driving while distracted with a smartphone includes more than texting – watching videos, programming music play lists or map searches, texting is the top non-vocal driving distraction today and the most dangerous.

Reading and drafting text messages take eyes, hands and concentration off the road and surrounding traffic. Lane swerving, sideswipes and collisions that could otherwise be safely and easily avoided are the result.

Driving texters take longer to react to hazards than those who don’t use mobiles while driving: That extra time too often translates into millions of dollars in insurance claims and medical treatment costs that are completely unnecessary, not to mention the impact from civil and criminal fines.
For comparison, sober drivers take 0.54 seconds to react to hazards. Drunk drivers can respond quickly enough to add only four additional feet to stopping distances. Texters, however, add an average distance of over 70 feet.

Lack of Driver Concern

Despite legal ramifications and potential financial drains, drivers who insist on texting while driving blatantly ignore the very real consequences, believing they have the right to use their mobile phone in any environment, including a mobile one. Unfortunately, that lack of driver concern has led to over 2,600 deaths each year since texting became available.

Tips to Lessen the Danger

The most effective method to lessen risk is to avoid the risk altogether: Turn off your mobile phone while driving. The absence of email notifications, social update messages, texts, apps and calls will help focus all concentration where it belongs – on the road.

If that’s not possible, for you have no record of incoming calls with or without voicemail messages, turn the ringer to its Silent setting and store your smartphone out of sight where a lit display will not distract or detract. The Vibrate setting does not work as effectively, for your attention is still diverted from safe driving practices.

Pull out of traffic if you must respond to an incoming alert or to make a call or send a message. If you are unable to pull into a parking lot or to the curb, do not stop in the flow of traffic. If on the berm, put your car in park and engage your emergency flashers while you operate your mobile handset.

If you cannot resist the temptation, AT&T developed a BlackBerry and Android app called DriveMode. The activated app sends an automatic response via text to callers that notify them in a personalized message that you are driving and will send return contact at a later time.

by Jaye Ryan, a freelance author who enjoys writing about safety and mobile phones for MobilePhones.org.uk.