It’s official. Today House Bill 09-1094 goes into effect, banning texting while driving. It also makes it illegal for teens to use their cell phones while driving.
We’ve all done it – sending a quick text to our spouse on the way home, checking our email on the way to the office, reading tweets from our favorite celebrity while behind the wheel. And we tell ourselves its okay – it’ll only take a second. I can text and drive at the same time. I was only reading my text messages – I wasn’t typing anything – that isn’t dangerous. And the excuses and justifications go on and on.
According the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) there were an estimated 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents caused by drivers using their cell phones in 2002. Those numbers are likely much higher today. As part of their study, NHTSA recommended further study of the dangerous behaviors of multi-tasking while driving. This research still has not occurred.
A study by The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) equated texting while driving to driving the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour with your eyes shut! This study asserts that of all of the driving distractions, text messaging was the most dangerous and was over 20 times riskier than driving while not using a cell phone. Texting caused the longest period of a driver’s eyes off the road with 4.6 seconds over a 6-second interval, which equates to driving the length of a football field at 55 mph without looking at the road.
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter signed House Bill 09-1034 earlier this year in Fort Collins, Colorado, where 9-year Erica Forney was killed in November 2008. While riding her bicycle, she was hit by a car that drifted into the bike lane by a driver who was distracted while talking on a cell phone. As of December 1, 2009 it is illegal to text, email and tweet while driving. Drivers under the age of 18 are banned from any cell phone usage. The new law does have provisions for emergency usage.
While some feel that banning texting doesn’t go far enough to keep Colorado drivers safe on the roads, at least it’s a start. In the future, supporters would like to see all Colorado drivers who talk on a cell phone while driving to be required to use a hands-free device.