July 28th, 2009
05:38 PM ET

The dangers of texting while driving

Program Note: A new transportation study reveals the dangers of cell phone use while driving. The Virginia Tech Transporation Institute made the following findings in the table below. Tune in to AC360º at 10 P.M. ET tonight for a behind-the-wheel look at the effects of cell phone use. You can also read more about this story at CNN.com.

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute

Several largescale, naturalistic driving studies (using sophisticated cameras and instrumentation in participants’ personal vehicles) conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), provide a clear picture of driver distraction and cell phone use under realworld driving conditions. Combined, these studies continuously observed drivers for more than 6 million miles of driving. A snapshot of risk estimates from these studies is shown in the table below.


Risk of Crash or Near Crash event



Light Vehicle/Cars



Dialing Cell Phone



2.8 times as high as non

distracted driving


Talking/Listening to Cell Phone



1.3 times as high as non

distracted driving


Reaching for object (i.e. electronic device and other)



1.4 times as high as non

distracted driving


Heavy Vehicles/Trucks



Dialing Cell phone



5.9 times as high as non

distracted driving


Talking/Listening to Cell Phone



1.0 times as high as non

distracted driving


Use/Reach for electronic device



6.7 times as high as non

distracted driving


Text messaging



23.2 times as high as non

distracted driving



Read the full press release here.

Read driving tips from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration here.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Tom Foreman
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. William of Iowa

    Academic proof of the obvious. The real trick is enforcement and an impossible one to administer fairly. Citizens need to recognize safety issues and take action to protect themselves and others. It could save a life.

    July 29, 2009 at 9:51 am |
  2. Mouhamad A. Naboulsi

    I had the pleasure of experiencing these dangers since early 90's as a traveling consultant to various industries. But instead of just doing more of the same, I set up a process that I later morphed into a product and a patent that alleviate all known causes of Driver Distraction.

    When we speak of causes, I am not speaking of Cell phones, Texting or applying makeup. Causes for distractions are rooted in our instincts that desire to have it all, Money, Sex, Power etc.. and to fight this cause, we need to do what we did for all of our natural instincts:

    a: Temper them with Education
    b: Remove the temptation
    c: Allow a reasonable outlet where the effect is within expected/accepted society norm.

    In the case of multitasking behind the wheel, education is there and more often then not, people recognize these dangers without any one telling them that they are endangering at least themselves.

    Unlike the call to ban all communication devices or the solutions that actually disable them, what our patented invetion does is disable the usability features that are responsible for actual known accidents.
    1: Eyes off the Road
    2: One or more hands off the wheel
    3: Monitor driver usage of the steering wheel and pedals to determine if the call is effecting their concentration.
    4: Prevent incoming notification or calls during critical time.

    An example of how this system protects drivers from distraction is by not allowing the phone to ring while the driver is turning, over taking another car or braking hard. This feature alone eliminate 43% of known accident causes related to cell phone usage.

    Texting is disable as an ongoing option unless both drivers hands are detected as gripping the steering wheel and actual phone calls can be made by toggling through an "Audible list of Most Likely Name" .

    Banning telecommunications in the car is not a solution and it will hinder creative solution such as ours. This is true for adult or teen drivers. I as a parent want my children to be able to call me in case of emergency, and under these proposed ban, to make that emergency call to me or to 911 is still a dangerous affair because it does not use a safe approach.

    The control of the phone features is done by a thumb gesture using a single sensor (or even a regular switch) on the steering wheel. This feature still enables drivers to make an emergency call without taking their hand off the steering wheel.

    We welcome reporters to inquire about our device so more people are aware that there are middle ways between an all out ban and the free for all that we have now.

    Mouhamad A. Naboulsi
    Applied Computer Technologies, Inc.
    West Bloomfield, Michigan USA

    July 29, 2009 at 6:20 am |
  3. doyin

    (a) what is the risk of a crash while texting and driving a car?

    (b) what are the actual statistics of crashes that have occurred due to texting?

    c) what is (b) as a percentage of all crashes?

    July 29, 2009 at 5:07 am |
  4. Mr. Britt

    whats really scary is a 18 wheeler tanker full of gas, flying by you while the driver of it is texting. happened to me last night, he about ran me off the road.

    July 29, 2009 at 3:13 am |
  5. Mike B.

    I live in Minnesota and they passed a law for people who text while driving. I think it is dangers and I have come close to running into someone from texting. Now I don't text when I am driving. I think it should be a law in every state.

    July 29, 2009 at 1:32 am |
  6. Matthew

    Also, I have been driving and talking on cell phones since the 80s (when they weren't as convenient to hold!) AND this in manual transmission cars.

    I've never been involved in any accident, as I've always been able to moderate my usage in the context of the traffic around me.

    Non-tactile texting, such as on an iPhone and other touch-screen phones, is also VERY different from texting on something with tactile inputs (such as a qwerty keyboard or phone with T9 logic).

    There are really too many variables here, confounded by the lackluster driver education requirements. I see people eating salads or burgers with both hands, or driving with an animal on their lap (yes, of the driver's seat!), and doing plenty of other things which "common sense" should prevent you from doing!

    July 29, 2009 at 12:00 am |
  7. James Craggs

    I saw a statistic today that the average teenager texts around 70 wpm. The average adult text at 8. This would mean that a teenager would of been done texting 8.75 times faster then the adult that conducted the survey. Yet their solutions were to put bans on teenagers using cell phones? How about a ban on the elderly driving? Or just people with delayed reaction time?

    July 28, 2009 at 11:54 pm |
  8. Matthew

    The problem is that we will always have new gizmos and technologies to distract us – none of which are as distracting as a real passenger btw!!! – so instead of making new laws to chase these dangers, we should just work at better enforcement of existing laws.

    We already have laws, and can compound citations with added offenses such as "distracted or inattentive driving" to increase penalties (fines, etc..). Why aren't we doing a better job of enforcing these laws?

    Since the cell phone law has been passed in California, I've seen very little reduction in actual cell phone usage behind the wheel. People still do it, and now we just have another law on the books to waste time and space and let some politician pat themselves on the back, meanwhile we continue to matriculate bad and worse drivers each year.

    I vote to repeal all device specific laws and just encourage officers to enforce the many great and relevant laws we already have!

    July 28, 2009 at 11:53 pm |
  9. Gary R. Thompson

    So – how much taxpayer money was spent. And how much time did you waste pointing out the obvious on how texting while driving is dangerous?
    Let's see, head down for 5-10 seconds while driving. What genious figured out this may be a problem. And how much did it cost us?

    July 28, 2009 at 11:52 pm |
  10. Joyce from California

    This is taken directly from the California DMV website;

    Wireless Communications Device and Wireless Telephone Laws FAQs

    Q: Are there exceptions for dialing?
    A: This law does not prohibit reading, selecting or entering a phone number, or name in an electronic wireless device for the purpose of making or receiving a phone call. Drivers are strongly urged not to enter a phone number while driving.

    Text Messaging Law Effective January 1, 2009/Cellular Phone Laws Effective July 1, 2008

    Q: What is the fine if I’m convicted?
    A: The base fine for the FIRST offense is $20 and $50 for subsequent convictions. With penalty assessments, the fine can be more than triple the base fine amount.

    It is so easy to slam into the back or side of another car. It is just as easy to lose control of your car and slam into a human being. What is that important on a cell to risk killing another person. Hell, based on the way some folks drive already, they need no distraction at all.

    July 28, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  11. Erin

    If I could yell this I would. California banned the use of cell phones last year and I see more people using them while driving now than I did prior to the law. WHY? Because the stupid fine is only $20.00 Please, someone me how that deters anyone from not using the phone while driving? If I happen to be driving in the evening, I can look at the car next to me and see the jerk texting while driving. Maybe if the fines were so high it hurt and the laws were enforced, California won't have such a budget deficit, not to mention the lives that would be saved.

    July 28, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  12. ana montiel-dub

    yes i like to make a comment on the situation that i have seen alot of police officers on their cell phones, talking and sometimes texting while they were driving.so i think that not only do people that drive should be careful of texting,I don't drive i take the via bus in san antonio should be careful there's lots of people out there that want to live another day

    July 28, 2009 at 9:01 pm |
  13. emily

    @ sabrina...what would you have done when you were her age and couldn't get ahold of your mother? waited where you were until she called you back?

    and @ nick... i run my business from my blackberry, and i've never needed to get back to a client so bad that i would put other people's lives in danger. they can wait a few minutes, if it's really REALLY important, i guess i'll have to make a pit stop in the nearest wal-mart parking lot and call them back.

    July 28, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  14. emily

    yes, teresa, because we all want to see a bunch of cars pulled off to the side of the highway, causing even more of a distraction for MORE people. sounds like a great idea.

    hey, i have a better one. mount your phone on your dash so you can see caller ID, get a bluetooth, and only answer it if it's actually important.

    or...just call them back when you get to your destination. can't imagine there's anything REALLY that important to talk about all the time.

    July 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm |
  15. Martin Boucher

    What about eating and smoking while driving. Those are dangerous too.

    July 28, 2009 at 8:45 pm |
  16. Lisa Peklo

    Good Lord Anderson, I have observed women in mini vans with a coffee in one hand, a cell phone wedged between neck and shoulder and what appears to be texting on something else. This is more than dangerous- it's lethal. P.S. All this with kids in car seats in the vehicle.

    July 28, 2009 at 8:32 pm |
  17. Elle

    I think this is an amazing study, however the use of cell phone while driving, whether we're texting, talking/listening, dialing, etc., it causes lives! No matter how a smart texter you are, or no matter how experienced you are with multi-tasking, driving while using a cell phone is dangerous. Please PULL OVER, obtain an undivided attention, and lots of lives would be saved in the end.

    July 28, 2009 at 8:27 pm |
  18. Brandon Tran

    Wow, I've never seen the actual statistics laid out like this! I myself am learning how to drive, and I find it hard enough even steering the car.
    I don't think people realize how dangerous driving really is. The way I see it, you are basically trusting others with your life every time you get behind the wheel, and people who do anything other than pay attention to the road are being reckless. Don't car accidents account for the leading amount of preventable deaths? I'd hate to live with the guilt of knowing that I injured someone just because I couldn't wait to text my friend back about...oh say Real Housewives of Atlanta.

    July 28, 2009 at 8:21 pm |
  19. Ikaika

    Why is this even an issue? Talk about a no-brainer – sheesh.

    July 28, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  20. Cathy in NC

    What is so important that can't wait until you are not operating a car? I can see the text and calls now. Texter 1. Dude, what's up. What are you doing 2nite? Reply texter. Dude, idk.. Texter 1. nuttin. driving home from work. Texter reply. me 2. will call later.
    Ok, what the was the importance of that. If you were to kill someone due to using the phone, if you have a heart, you will never get rid of the guilt.

    July 28, 2009 at 7:50 pm |
  21. Annie Kate

    Most of the people I see driving these days have a cell phone in their hands and are just talking away. I can see how distracting it is by watching how they drive. I just wonder how many wrecks could have been avoided by not having that cell phone on in the first place. We don't all need to be available every second of every day – turn it off while you are driving. The life you save may be your own.

    July 28, 2009 at 7:41 pm |
  22. King Solomon @ All People Radio.Net

    A word from the wize... don't text and drive Dummie

    July 28, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  23. Melody, TX

    I am ashamed to say that I have been guilty of both talking and occasionally texting while driving. It's tempting, however, I am making a pledge today to end all texting and only answer my phone if it's my kids calling.

    July 28, 2009 at 7:06 pm |
  24. Tammie, MI

    I use a bluetooth device for all of my calls. I have an in-ear bluetooth and a bluetooth that clips to my visor. Voice calling to anybody in your phonebook and answering the phone are done with the touch of a finger; you can leave your phone in its pouch or in your purse. And the best part is it leaves your hands free to use your blinker. YEAH!!!!

    Why not make bluetooth devices mandatory when using your phone in the car? It's a safety measure just like a baby car seat.

    July 28, 2009 at 7:06 pm |
  25. Maddog

    It shocks me how attached some people are to their phones and MP3 players. When I'm walking down a busy street, I can't think of a song I want to hear more than an on-coming car.

    Driving and texting is insane.

    July 28, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  26. Dereck Gilbert, Ohio

    I'm assuming that text messaging numbers for light vehicles weren't staggering enough to be included in this study. I text and drive but somehow I can easily keep a car on the road. Qwerty keyboards are easily memorized and i can text with one hand, allowing my full attention to be on the road. We should be more worried about teaching kids to drive on wet/snow-covered/icy roads. Both of my accidents were on snow and that's before i had a cell phone.

    July 28, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  27. tony

    No intend to undermine them, but i think these kind of studies are stating the somewhat obvious.
    I guess it substantiates the previous conventional wisdoms of dangers of texting while driving, but I guess somewhat skeptics like me don't see these kind of studies as headliners, at least not top ones.

    July 28, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  28. Sabrina in Las Vegas

    Omg, I love texting and driving but that will end tomorrow night when I move back to cali early....

    No texting, no distractions and no holding a phone...man, what will my daught er do if she can't get a hold of me?

    July 28, 2009 at 6:59 pm |
  29. Nick

    To the comment above me, you must be socialy deprived. Some people run businesses off cell phones.

    July 28, 2009 at 6:59 pm |
  30. Isabel, Brazil

    I see people so reluctant to use the hands free.
    I don't understand that. Since 1995 I have mobile and despite many believe that hands free a luxury this time, I always used, but usually when someone makes a mess in traffic, is talking on the cell phone is using and occupying one of hands.

    July 28, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  31. Uchechi

    The information in this study is great, although many people still continue to talk, text, and use their cell phones while driving. Most people think that the accident won't happen to them, rather it will occur to the clumsy driver, or the old people who can barley work a cell phone without driving. Yet its true, when your using a cell phone and operating a vechicle it is distracting. I would not want to be on the road with someone while they were texting.

    July 28, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  32. charlotte

    if you are going to talk while driving invest in a bluetooth dial numbers while your car is stopped to text while driving is just plain stupidity none of the junk people are texting is worth losing your life over or causing someone else to lose theirs

    July 28, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  33. Julie-Boston

    Guilty. I am crackberry obsessed...

    July 28, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  34. Angela - Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

    I can't even text while I'm walking! I once hit a wall while texting... kinda funny though hehehe

    July 28, 2009 at 6:30 pm |
  35. Hope B.

    If texting while driving is an dangerous as the study reports (and I have no doubt that it is), then why isn't it treated with the same punishment as driving while intoxicated?

    Here are a few suggestions that would really curtail text messaging while driving:

    1.) If proven, insurance companies should charge an additional $500 deductible before paying for any damages as a result of driving while texting. Also, texters should be required to carry SR22 insurance for the same length of time as DUI violators.
    2.) If a person has an accident, there should be a $500 fine imposed upon the texter (1/3 of the fines can go to local government, 1/3 to state and 1/3 to charity – talk about helping pay down our national debt!).
    3.) If a person is caught texting, there should be a $500 fine.

    Remember, there's always a paper trail when you text. It's pretty easy for Verizon to pull up your phone record to see if you were in the middle of texting when your accident occurred.

    Look, unless this issue is treated with the same severity that DUI is, lives will be lost – PERIOD! I can't tell you how many times someone has almost pulled out in front of me because they're texting. I guess I'm just lucky...so far!

    July 28, 2009 at 6:26 pm |
  36. Teresa, OH

    I think any kind of cell phone usage while driving should be banned. ANY. If my phone rings, I pull off the road and deal with it after my car is in park.

    Cell phones, for the most part, are just another toy. They have their useful purposes ( car breaks down, 911) but still are mostly toys.

    Who is everyone talking to? lol

    July 28, 2009 at 5:57 pm |