Reporters learn texting-and-driving car accident risks first-hand

Posted By Kinnard, Clayton & Beveridge || Feb 28, 2011

To provide a visceral demonstration of the dangers of distracted driving, two state legislators from North Carolina recently invited local reporters to take a turn around the Highway Patrol's training track -- in a golf cart.

The idea was to demonstrate that texting while driving, or even just talking on a cell phone, can cause a car accident even when you're going 1 to 2 mph. Several of the participants made potentially deadly mistakes -- sending half a dozen orange cones flying, or blowing a stop sign -- after just a moment of inattention.

"It really is an eye-opener," said state House leader Thom Tillis after his turn at the wheel.

State Rep ran off the road while calling in to a radio show about texting and driving

Tillis, a Republican, organized the event with state Representative Garland Pierce, a Democrat, after a moment of irony gave him first-hand knowledge of the dangers of dialing a cell phone while trying to drive.

Last year, Tillis was driving between Charlotte and Pinehurst and listening to a talk show. Pierce was getting bashed by callers for proposing a ban on texting while driving.

"They were being unfair to him," Tillis told reporters at the event. "I tried to call the station, but I ran off the doggone road."

After his own car accident drove home the real danger of driver distraction, Tillis decided to do what he could to help the Democrat's bill move forward. The bill, which is currently in a science and technology committee, would ban texting while driving, talking on a cell phone while driving, and using smart phones to select music, take pictures, play games or go on the Internet behind the wheel. It would still allow hands-free phone technology to be used.

"We're in a mobile society," Tillis says. "A lot of people's offices are on the road. But lives are at stake."

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted a study about distracted driving, and found the following frightening statistics:

  • Increased risk of a car accident or near-crash event from talking on a cell phone while driving: 130 percent
  • Increased risk of a car accident or near-crash event from dialing a cell phone while driving: 280 percent
  • Increased risk of a truck accident or near-crash event from acommercial driver texting while driving: 2300 percent

Tennessee banned texting while driving in 2009, but North Carolina has not yet passed such a law. A bill similar to Pierce's passed its first reading and is currently in the judiciary committee, but two previous attempts to pass a distracted driving ban stalled in committee.

"Some say 'You're taking away my rights; you're in my car,' " Pierce said. "But it's all about highway safety. It's a discussion worth having. These are missiles we're driving."

Categories: Car Accidents
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