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The Dangers of Texting and Driving V.J. | , 6:19 p.m. Aug. 5, 2009 2009-08-05

Lately, it seems as if text messaging has become the preferred mode of communication for millions. As cell phones become more utilized on the road, driving tragedies involving text messaging, while behind the wheel, have been increasing.

One such recent tragedy involved a 17-year-old girl from Eureka, Illinois. The coroner stated that the teenager was texting when she lost control of her car and was killed. Based upon the data recovered from her cell phone, investigators found that she was sending and receiving text messages when the accident occurred.

Texting poses serious, sometimes fatal distractions to all drivers, but particularly teenagers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, auto accidents are the leading cause of death for people between 16 and 20, killing more than 5000 annually. Increasingly, drivers are texting on their phones and this is placing others at risk. Recent studies show that text messaging is a growing cause of auto accidents in the United States. Motorists who text message have been found to be more distracted and more likely to be involved in an accident.

A new study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that when drivers engaged in texting while driving, their risk of an accident was 23 times greater than when not texting. This study showed that texting is much more dangerous than other driving distractions. The study also demonstrated that drivers spent almost five seconds looking at their cell phones while texting and driving.

An experiment this year with Car and Driver editor Eddie Alterman revealed that texting while driving had more of a negative impact on driver safety than being drunk. Although being legally intoxicated added four feet to Alterman's stopping distance at 70 mph, reading an e-mail added 36 feet and sending a text added 70 feet.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia currently have full bans on texting while driving. Legislators in some states have rejected such rules. Some say they need more data to decide whether to ban the activity.

If you or a loved one has been involved in an auto accident due to another driver's texting or negligence, you should consult with an attorney to learn about the laws of your state and your legal rights.

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