by Tyler Tomlinson, Esq.

We all know how the dangers of texting while driving. It is illegal in New Jersey. However, a majority of us still do it. It is worth it to look at the facts why we must stop this dangerous habit now.

Texting While Driving Statistics

• You are 23 times more likely to get into an accident when texting than a non-distracted driver.

• About 6,000 deaths and a half a million injures are caused by distracted drivers every year.

• Answering a text takes away from your attention for about five seconds. That is enough time to travel the length of a football field.

• Talking on a cell phone causes 25% of all car accidents.

• Of all cell phone related tasks –– including talking, dialing, or reaching for the phone –– texting while driving is the most dangerous.

You may be sued

If you just send a text message to someone, and that person gets into a car accident, you could be sued.

Some lawyers around the country are bringing lawsuits against people that send text messages, which distracts another driver, and causes an accident. The lawyers argue that the sender is partially responsible for distracting another driver and thus causing an accident.

While it might seem absurd to blame someone who is not even in the car for causing an accident, some legal experts say that the lawsuits are on firmer ground than you might think. The theory is that the sender is “assisting” the other driving in violating the law against texting while driving.

People are familiar with the notion of “aiding and abetting” a criminal act and the guilt that it brings. How about the man who knowingly holds the door open for a gang to rob a bank? He is just as likely to be convicted of bank robbery as the person that cracks the safe.

Lawyers argue that by sending a text message to someone that you know is driving, it is similar to covering their eyes while they are driving. The text messages distract the driver from his obligations to keep his eyes on the road.

Teen Texting

Virtually all teenagers agree that texting while driving is dangerous but nearly half admit they have done it anyway. This is according to a poll that was conducted by an independent research firm for AT&T.

Some 97 percent of the 1,200 teens surveyed said texting while driving was dangerous, with about two-thirds saying it was very dangerous. Yet 43 percent said they had done so in the past three months.

Compounding the issue was the finding of what teens thought constituted texting while driving. The findings indicate reading a text is somehow (seen as) less dangerous than typing a text.

• Despite the risks, the majority of teen drivers ignore cell phone driving restrictions.

• Each year, 21% of fatal car crashes involving teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 were the result of cell phone usage.

• Almost 50% of all drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 are texting while driving.

• Teens say that texting is their number one driver distraction.

• Teen drivers are four times more likely than adults to get into car crashes or near crash events directly related to talking on a cell phone or texting.

This year, 10,000 high school students in Somerset County took a pledge not to text while driving. Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office formed a coalition with the local hospitals and launched a campaign "Put It Down". They encouraged high school students to put down their cell phones all together while they were driving. If a student was caught driving while texting, they were given a written warning by the police. Then they were required to view an educational video on texting while driving within 15 days of the incident or receive a summons and $100 fine.

Complete Texting Ban

Some people have questioned whether a complete ban on texting while driving will actually lead to more crashes because drivers will conceal their cell phones, making it more dangerous to read and type messages. However, research has shown that texting while driving is unsafe regardless of where the phone is positioned. Compared with other sources of driver distractions, texting is in its own universe of risk.

The evidence is clear and overwhelming. We must stop texting while driving now.

Tyler Tomlinson is a Shareholder and member of the Accident & Personal Injury Group of Stark & Stark, 993 Lenox Drive, Lawrenceville. www.stark-stark.com or 609-896-9060.

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