Study indicates Tennessee drivers see texting while driving as a risky behavior


A new study by the Department of Transportation shows that Tennessee drivers regard texting while driving as a risky behavior. Specifically, they believe that teens who text or surf the Internet while behind the wheel are twice as likely to get into a car crash than drivers who don't text or use the Internet at all. The report doesn't make clear why this is so, but the Tennessee Highway Patrol seems to have a reasonable explanation for it: text messaging while driving can distract drivers from the road and it can also cause the brain to adapt to not being able to see what is going on around them. It is possible, therefore, that teens who text might have a harder time avoiding a traffic accident because they've grown accustomed to using their phones as a way to keep up with friends, family, and daily tasks on the road.

While it's impossible to completely avoid using your cell phone to drive, teens and drivers should do everything they can to minimize the distractions they cause while on the road. Text messaging, by definition, is a distraction, but it can be highly effective when used in conjunction with other factors, such as looking at a map, listening to music, checking the time, and talking on a cell phone if necessary. In a recent study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than half of all drivers surveyed stated that they were likely to text while driving if given a choice.

Given these facts, it is extremely important for parents to make sure that teens know not to text while driving. The only way to educate teens about the dangers of holding their cell phone to their ear is to ban the habit altogether, which would require the teens to wake up to look at their cell phones or some other non-texting option. Fortunately, there are several very easy options parents can choose from to keep their teen distracted and safe on the roads.

Distracted driving is seen as being as dangerous as drunk driving according to a University of Tennessee survey of Tennessee residents. In the study, a majority of those surveyed said that driving while distracted, while drowsy or too fast is dangerous. Despite acknowledging those risks, Tennessee drivers admitted in the survey that they still engaged in those risky driving behaviors. The study was conducted over the phone with 928 Tennessee residents last April by the University of Tennessee's Center for Applied Research and Evaluation. The research director said that he would like "to continue the survey annually in order to identify trends in perception of safety among Tennessee drivers." The Tennessee Department of Transportation and Highway Safety Office helped fund the study in an effort to identify areas for educational programs to increase safety. The study showed that the number of people who responded that texting while driving is unsafe was about the same as the number that stated that drunk driving is unsafe. Despite those views, more than one-fourth of those surveyed said they had sent a text message or e-mail while driving at least once in the past month, compared to four percent who said they drove while intoxicated during that same time period. The study also found that while 95 percent said it was not acceptable to drive while drowsy, almost 25 percent admitted to driving drowsy in the past month. Thus, the study indicates that while Tennessee drivers generally acknowledge the danger of behaviors like distracted or drowsy driving, some drivers continue to engage in these behaviors. After being presented with the study, car accident lawyer Frank Farsalisi says that he hopes that all drivers in Tennessee will work to avoid engaging in such harmful driving habits in order to ensure that Tennessee's roads are as safe as possible for those who use them.