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It has been widely agreed that most of the drivers in US do texting while they are behind the wheels; statistics show that the phenomenon is on the rise, increasing to110.4 billion as at December 2008 from 9.8 billion in December 2005 (Austin, 2009). Texting while driving refers to a situation whereby individuals compose, send and or read text messages, e-mails or making other similar uses of internet on mobile devices and at the same time operating a motor vehicle for instance truck, train, cars (McGarva et al. (2006).
Texting while driving is six times likely to cause an accident or near crash event compared to driving when one is drunk. The most frequent texters are aged between 16 and 30 years. When legally drunk, stopping distance from 70mph increases by 4ft, on the other hand reading an e-mail added 36 ft and sending text added another 70ft. Statistics also reveal that there are over 23% chances of causing a motor car accident if individual text while they are driving. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that in 2009 5,870 people died as a result of crash, all these cases involved a destructed driver. Mobile phones have been attributed to 10% of the reported incidences. In cases that were not fatal, 979 crashes out of 349,668 are attributed to texting behind the wheels (Austin, 2009).
Among the notable crashes and closely linked to texting behind the wheels include; killing of Danny Oates in August 29th 2007, Heather Leigh in January, 3rd 2008. One that will remain in the memories of American is the 2008 Chatsworth train collision that left 25 people dead and scores seriously injured. According to a report posted on 6th July 2010, Victoria MacBryde was killed when her car was hit by Philippa Curtis who was presumed to be texting; this is back in 20th November, 2007.
Research shows that when texting, reading SMSes or mail individuals behind the wheels takes an average of 4 to 5 seconds of their eyes off the road and a times their hands off the steering wheel; this can be a perfect situation for an accident to occur assuming that the car is moving at a higher speed. No wonder, it has been said loosing concentration while driving even for a few seconds can be disastrous and fatal. This is because cognitive reasoning and the time for response will be prolonged thus higher chances of crashing. Additionally, distraction caused by texting makes the culprit not to see what happens on the road that warrants their attention. As suggested by Austin, 2009 human beings need at least a second to process the changing events on the road and then act. While travelling at 60mph, one needs approximately six seconds to come to a stand still. This is a small span of time to avoid errors, coupled with the 4-5 seconds of not paying attention to the road happenings then accident occurrence is inevitable.
It is no doubt that an accident will either result to death, serious and permanent injuries and finally loss of property. It is worth noting that distracted driving by the sense that it does not result to accidents, it causes inconvenience to other road user which may result in jams slowing down traffic. This loss of time probably translates to economic loss. A number of scores have either lost their lives or are permanently deformed. For instance, inquiry into the Chatsworth train collision revealed that the crew responsible for signal reading and interpretation was busy sending and receiving SMSes just before the collision. He seemed not to have heeded the red signal, as a result twenty five people lost their lives on the spot and many more of the passengers got very serious injuries. In other cases, especially the one in 2007 involving Victoria and Curtis, the later suffered permanent brain injury. Similarly, the damage caused to human body, the vehicles as well as the cost incurred by insurance company runs in excess of $43billion annually not mentioning that loss of human life has no price tag.
Corrective measures to curb the situation include banning use of mobile phones while driving. This can be seen by the stand of the American President prohibiting all federal employees not to indulge in texting while driving government vehicles. Imposing a fine has also been used; similarly education and awareness program put in place seem to be an option when well executed can yield results (McGarva et al., 2006). A system where car manufactures and mobile phone manufactures cooperate and come up with technologies that would disable text futureS when in a moving car might also help in curbing the menace.
In conclusion cell phones use while driving, is distractive as it leads to serious consequences. Statistics reveal the phenomenon is on the rise. The consequences of such distraction include fatal accidents that leave individual death, permanently and seriously injured, anger and aggression of other drivers among others. To curb the menace, there is need to take necessary steps such as completely banning cell phone use while driving, imposing heavy fines and developing technologies that would disable text features for drivers when in a moving car.