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Don’t Text and Drive!

stop-texting-300x200According to a recent article in the Texas Tribune, texting and driving may become illegal later this year and rightly so.  Most of us are guilty of looking at texts while behind the wheel. For some reason, we’re unable to resist the temptation.  For some, there’s a misconception that a phone call can wait, but a text requires an immediate response.

And then there are those of us who would never text and drive.  But with voice-to-text technology that transcribes your spoken words into text form, we’re totally safe in doing so, right?  Wrong.  A new study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute finds that voice-to-text technology is just as dangerous as texting while driving. Coincidentally, this study was released while lawmakers are determining whether to pass House Bill 63, which would be a Texas-wide ban on sending text messages.  Many Texas cities already have their own bands in place.  This bill has already passed the House and the Senate will now vote on it. Two years ago, the bill was passed but Governor Rick Perry vetoed it.  According to Perry, the bill was “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults.”  This past March, he was quoted as saying “The key to dissuading drivers from texting while driving is information and education, not government micromanagement.”

The lead author of the study said that new technologies such as speaking into a phone don’t protect drivers from having accidents. The study involved 43 research subjects who drove cars on a closed course.  The first time they drove, they did so with no distractions.  Then they were required to perform several activities, including texting, and voice-to-text technology.  Results indicate that driver reaction times were nearly two times slower than the baseline condition, no matter which texting method was used, according to the study.  Eye gazes to the forward roadway also significantly decreased.  Despite these findings, drivers perceived that they were safer using the voice method of texting.

Prior to approving any statewide ban, lawmakers want to see more data, as well as educational campaigns that will alert the public of the dangers of distracted driving. Earlier in April, the Texas Department of Transportation launched a campaign. On Monday, the House passed HB 437, by state Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.  This bill would enforce current laws which prohibit all use cellphones on public school grounds, protecting children from distracted driving.

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