Tom Foreman | Bio
Picture a car careening down a Los Angeles freeway in rush hour with the driver crunching a phone between his cheek and shoulder, one hand holding a sputtering tape recorder, the other furiously scribbling in a notebook, all while he steers with his knees. Here is a great truth of the American roadway: I have multi-tasked at 70 mph in heavy traffic like a Zen master.
But now, like a congressman caught in a sex scandal, I am ready to swear I’ll never do it again. At least when it comes to the practice of messaging or texting while behind the wheel.
A new report coming out of Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute says texting while driving is not merely dangerous, but something akin to juggling rabid cats. Try it enough times and you’ll get hurt. In real studies of real drivers in real traffic, the researchers found that truckers were 23 times more likely to have an accident if texting, and Tom Dingus, who runs the VTTI, says there is no reason for the rest of us to think we’ll do any better.
This came as something of a surprise for me. I have thumbed notes to colleagues, my wife, my kids, my friends, while slipping through DC traffic like a fish. Sure, I’ve been startled by the odd Volvo which has miraculously appeared dead stopped a few feet in front of me. Of course, I’ve looked up from the glowing screen to see the saucer-sized eyes of a pedestrian I was poised to mow down with the efficiency of a soybean combine. But I’ve always told myself those are anomalies. I am flicking my eyes toward the road enough to be safe.
“That’s what everyone thinks,” Dingus says. But the numbers tell a different story. If you drop a CD into your car stereo, you may take your eyes off of the road for a second-and-a-half. Dial your cellphone; that’s three seconds. But texting typically involves taking your eyes off of the street for almost five seconds at a time. At highway speeds, that’s long enough for you to travel the length of a football field, including both end zones, all while driving blind.
Several U.S. Senators are now backing a bill to outlaw texting by all drivers, and operators of mass transit coast to coast. There are already ten states – plus DC – that are enforcing such laws and they’re expecting four more states to have anti-texting laws go into effect this fall.
I can’t say if these laws will really make a difference. People often find ways around them. But as for me, I don’t need a police officer to tell me it’s dangerous anymore. I got the message.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with