It seems we can’t escape our phones and the constant communication that has become our new norm. But texting while driving is not only a bad idea, it can also be a fatal one. Washington was the first state to make texting and driving illegal. It is also considered a “primary offense” here which means that a police officer can pull you over solely because you are texting. The fine for the offense is only $124. I know, $124 is $124, but the risks posed with texting and driving should correlate with a much higher fine. Here’s why.
Did you know that texting increases your crash risk 23-fold? And did you know that an increased crash risk of 23 times is the same increased crash risk when you are driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.19? That’s over twice our legal limit of .08!! The fines and penalties for driving while intoxicated are much stiffer than $124. Shouldn’t the fines be higher for driving while inTEXTicated?
A recent study found that 8 percent of drivers in our most populous Washington counties were engaged with electronic devices while behind the wheel. Of those 8 percent of distracted drivers, nearly half (45 percent) were observed texting. So if you are texting and increasing your crash risk by 23 times, and the vehicles around you are texting and increasing their crash risk by 23 times, well you do the math—your odds of being involved in an accident skyrocket.
Distracted drivers were involved in more than 25 percent of the driving fatalities in Washington State several years ago. With more drivers and more gadgets and more texters, those numbers have undoubtedly climbed in recent years with our evolving technology and texting dependent populace.
So what does it all mean? There are a lot of folks texting while driving. With motor vehicle injuries remaining the leading cause of death nationally for those under 35 years of age, a chunk of those deaths now stem from distracted driving and texting. Even more sobering is that these are self-inflicted wounds: senseless distracted driving deaths are easily preventable by just turning off or temporarily ignoring the phone.