Texting and Driving: A Serious Killer

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March 09, 2016 | 32,726 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Driver-related factors such as distraction, error, impairment and fatigue are present in nearly 90 percent of crashes
  • Dialing a phone was the most dangerous distraction and increased the risk of a crash by 12-fold
  • Hands-free cell phone use is just as dangerous while driving as a hand-held device; the danger is due to your brain, which cannot effectively multitask

By Dr. Mercola

What happens when you use onboard video cameras and sensors monitoring speed, acceleration and GPS location to gather information from more than 3,500 drivers over a three-year period?

You get an intimate snapshot of the seconds leading up to a crash, including revelations about the risk factors that caused it.

This was the model used by a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which revealed that many "secondary tasks" related to the use of hand-held electronic devices (i.e. cell phones) are of "detriment to driver safety."1

Driver-Related Factors Implicated in 90 Percent of Crashes

The researchers analyzed data from more than 900 crashes that involved injuries or property damage. They noted a dramatic shift in crash causation in recent years, noting that driver-related factors such as distraction, error, impairment and fatigue are present in nearly 90 percent of crashes.

"The results also definitively show that distraction is detrimental to driver safety, with handheld electronic devices having high use rates and risk," they concluded.2 Specifically, dialing a phone was the most dangerous distraction and increased the risk of a crash by 12-fold.

Reading or writing while driving was also dangerous and increased crash risk by 20 times. Other dangerous activities while driving included:

  • Reaching for an item other than a cell phone (increased crash risk by nine times)
  • Texting (increased risk by six times)
  • Reaching for a cell phone (increased risk by five times)
  • Browsing a phone or reading email (increased risk by three times)

Distracted Drivers Involved in 70 Percent of Crashes

Distraction is a major danger to drivers, and the study revealed, quite disturbingly, that drivers were distracted for varying periods of time during more than half of their trips. This doubled the risk of a crash.

Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol was still a greater crash risk (increasing the risk by 36 times), but that doesn't minimize the dangers of distracted driving.

Even crying or being visibly angry was enough of a distraction to increase the chances of a crash by 10 times but far more common is distraction due to use of a cell phone.

Even dialing a phone increased crash risk by 12 times, which is incredibly concerning considering teens spend about nine hours daily using media, which includes ample time on their cell phones, presumably some of it while driving despite the significant risks.3

Even on their best day, teens are three times more likely to crash than experienced drivers,4 underscoring the importance of talking to teens about turning their phones off while driving.

Your Thinking (Reflective) Brain Can Only Think About One Thing at a Time


Many people are aware that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous, yet for one reason or another continue to do it anyway. NSC's video above is a poignant reminder of how quickly accidents can happen when your mind is occupied by a phone conversation. To help put an end to cell phone distracted driving, NSC recommends these tips:12

  • Make a personal commitment to drive cell phone-free
  • Turn your phone off or put it on silent while driving so you are not tempted to answer it
  • Speak up when you are in the car with someone who uses a cell phone while driving ask if you can do it for them or if it can wait
  • Change your voicemail message to reflect that you are either away from your phone or driving and that you'll call back when you can do so safely
  • If you are talking to someone who you know is driving tell him/her to hang up and call you later

You can also take NSC's online pledge to be an attentive driver. If you're a parent with teenaged children, encourage them to take the pledge as well, which states:

"I pledge to Take Back My Drive for my own safety and for others with whom I share the roads. I choose to not drive distracted in any way I will not:

  • Have a phone conversation —handheld, hands-free, or via Bluetooth
  • Text or send Snapchats
  • Use voice-to-text features in my vehicle's dashboard system
  • Update Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, Vine or other social media
  • Check or send emails
  • Take selfies or film videos
  • Input destinations into GPS (while the vehicle is in motion)
  • Call or message someone else when I know they are driving"

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1, 2 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences January 26, 2016
  • 3 The Common Sense Census, Media Use by Tweens and Teens
  • 4, 7, 8 National Safety Council February 17, 2016
  • 5, 10, 12 National Safety Council June 23, 2014
  • 6 National Safety Council, The Problem of Cell Phone Distracted Driving
  • 9 National Safety Council, Safety on the Road
  • 11 Governors Highway Safety Association, Distracted Driving Laws February 2016