On January 1, 2010, a new law went into effect - using a device to write, send, or read an electronic communication of any kind (text messages, e-mails, etc.) is prohibited while operating a motor vehicle in the state of Illinois.
Labeled as "distracted driving," communicating electronically while behind the wheel had been banned in the city of Chicago for over a year before it became effective statewide. The law states that authorities are allowed to stop a driver if they suspect that he/she is texting - writing, sending, or reading messages - while operating a motor vehicle. Plus, they have the right to look at the driver's PDA or cell phone to confirm the activity.
Christy Alexander, R.N., and Angela Kimps, R.N., from the Emergency Department at Presence St. Mary's Hospital, are assisting the state's efforts on a local level. This spring, they have taken it upon themselves to bring a "no texting and driving" message to as many high school students as possible.
"There is no text worth a collision. If our message helps save the life of one individual or prevents that person from being seriously injured, we will be grateful," Alexander, a Pediatric Emergency Care Specialist, explains.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among U.S. teens. Mile for mile, these young adults are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other ages of drivers. And, one in three teens admits to texting when behind the steering wheel of a car.
The website www.distraction.gov spells out the types of distraction:
Manual - the driver takes at least one hand off of the steering wheel.
Visual - the driver takes his/her eyes off of the road.
Cognitive - the driver's mind is not focused on the task at hand - driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over one-fourth of the 1.4 million auto collisions that occur each year in the United States involve a distracted driver - 200,000 of which are blamed specifically on texting. Even more alarming, 16 percent of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted while driving.
While educational messages and campaigns create goodwill, these nurses feel it will take much more to get drivers to change their habits. "Education and enforcement, including a national ban on texting while driving, are the only keys to success, "Alexander believes. "One without the other won't get the job done.
"For teens, texting is such a natural way of life that they see nothing abnormal about doing it while driving. But, of all age groups, they tend to overestimate their ability to multi-task while operating a heavy machine (automobiles) and traveling at high speeds. If they only realized that they could lose everything while sending or receiving a text about what they had for lunch."
The bottom line couldn't be clearer: Texting while driving can kill. So, don't do it - no matter how old you are. DTRT. DTAD. (Do the Right Thing. Don't Text and Drive.)
National Safety Council, Car and Driver, Consumer Reports, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fatality Analysis Reporting System, National Automotive Sampling, National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, U.S. Department of Transportation, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Motorists, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, www.distraction.gov, National Organizations for Youth Safety, FocusDriven, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention