Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't Reach Out & Touch Someone While Driving!

The last two days of being stuck in traffic for well over an hour has sparked me to investigate some of the possible reason as to WHY South Carolinians have such terrible driving statistics. We move slowly in the South yet we drive like maniacs! I have never been an advocate of demolishing cell phone usage completely while behind the wheel, but I do support hands-free devices vs. holding the phone chatting OR text messaging. This is what I found.

South Carolina is No. 1 for people who report that they text message on their cell phone while driving, according to a survey sponsored by a company that offers a solution to the problem. It's no laughing matter. There are reports of drivers in Tennessee and Colorado who have caused fatalities because they were distracted while texting. State lawmakers around the country take the issue seriously.

The company, Vlingo, sells software that it says can translate voice to text on a cell phone, eliminating the need to tap out a message. It hired a firm that tallied 4,820 responses to a "self-administered" online survey.

The Palmetto State came out at the top, with 40 percent reporting they reached out and touched someone with text while driving. Arizona had the lowest rate, 17 percent.

Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, California and the District of Columbia outlaw the use of handheld phones while driving, and 38 states are considering 133 bills that would regulate their use behind the wheel, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A study conducted by Nationwide Mutual Insurance found that 19 percent of all drivers — and 37 percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 27 — send text messages while behind the wheel.

While the state Department of Public Safety does not track accidents involving cell phones, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that using a cell phone, including hands-free devices, left drivers four times as likely to get into an accident serious enough to cause injury.

More than half of the states place some restriction on cell phone use by drivers. The majority of restrictions are on school bus drivers and teens, according to the institute.

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