Distracted Driving: Texting While Driving

The  most recent crash statistics provided by the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office show that nearly 70,000 motor vehicle accidents occurred across the state in 2010.  More than 600 accidents were fatal, and as many as 24,445 accidents involved injury to the vehicle occupants.  Though motor vehicle accidents have many causes--drunk driving, inclement weather, poor road condition, vehicle malfunction--the most frequent cause of motor vehicle accidents is distracted driving, as any Oklahoma auto accident lawyer can attest. Distracted driving takes many forms, and involves any action in which a driver's attention is diverted from the primary task of safely operating the vehicle.  Distraction may be visual (taking one's eyes off the road), manual (taking one's hands from the wheel), or cognitive (taking one's mind off the task at hand).  Examples of distracted driving include:

  • Eating or drinking while driving (manual, visual)
  • Adjusting a stereo, CD, or MP3 player (manual, visual)
  • Using a navigation system or reading maps (manual, visual, cognitive)
  • Talking to passengers (cognitive)
  • Using a cell phone (manual, cognitive)
  • Texting while driving (manual, visual, cognitive)
  • Rubbernecking (visual)
While any distraction is a hazard on the state's roadways, texting while driving is considered one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving.  Whether composing and sending or receiving and reading a text message, texting involves all three types of distraction:  manual, visual, and cognitive.  Despite the dangers, the phenomenon has become so insidious and the consequences so deadly that numerous local and national campaigns have been launched in an effort to end texting while driving.  A leading telecommunications company released a 10-minute documentary exploring the personal consequences of texting and driving: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DebhWD6ljZs According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting while driving increases a driver's crash risk 23% above that of a non-distracted driver.  The NHTSA goes on to say that, while texting, a driver's eyes are taken from the roadway for an average of  five seconds--long enough to drive the entire length of a football field.  Last month, Governor Mary Fallin declared a "No Texting While Driving Awareness Day"; however, many Oklahomans believe this action does not go far enough to prevent texting while driving in Oklahoma. For the third straight year, the Oklahoma legislature has failed to pass a law specifically targeting texting while driving.  Forty states and Washington, D.C., have a complete ban on texting while driving; Oklahoma is one of only eleven states that have no texting ban or only a partial ban (in Oklahoma, state employees are banned from texting while driving).  Though opponents of the legislation indicate a duplication of existing reckless driving and distracted driving laws, supporters say that a specific texting while driving law would give officers more leeway to issue a citation or arrest.