We all know that texting while driving is unsafe. Nearly every state, including Colorado, has made it illegal to text while driving and three of the four states that do not have an outright ban on texting have restrictions for new drivers or school bus drivers. In spite of the dangers, people continue to drive distracted.
On top of everything we already know about texting and driving, we now have biological evidence that texting requires more concentration than some people like to admit. A recent study in Epilepsy & Behavior found the existence of a unique brain wave pattern in patients who were texting using handheld, mobile devices.
This discovery suggests that texting may actually require enough attention to alter how our brains operate. In short, people who are texting are very distracted.
According to the Department of Transportation, in 2014 alone, 431,000 people were injured and 3,179 killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. While texting is not the only distraction that increases the risk of an accident (others include eating, reading, or adjusting the radio while driving), it is the most dangerous because it “requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver.”
Even with proof of the dangers of texting while driving, we continue to make excuses. Some of the most common excuses people use to justify texting and driving include:
- “This message couldn’t wait. I had to send it now.”
- “I only text at stoplights and stop signs.”
- “I am very good at texting. I don’t even have to look at the phone.”
- “I am the only car on the road. How could I get into an accident?”
- “The texting ban is a stupid law.”
None of these excuses are valid. No matter how good you are at texting, if you text while driving, you are driving distracted. And distracted drivers are more likely to cause an accident. It is important to be vigilant in congested areas like college campuses. You never know who else may be distracted on the road. Even if you are the only car on the road, you must be aware of your surroundings. At any time, a deer may jump onto the street or you could hit a patch of loose gravel or ice – and you never know when another vehicle might enter the roadway. At red lights, you need to be aware of the cars and people around you rather than looking at your phone screen. You never know when another driver will run a red light or a pedestrian will start to cross the road. Instead of pressing send while rolling through an intersection, look both ways.
Stop making these bad excuses and break the habit now. Commit to distraction-free driving by placing your cell phone in the glove compartment or in a bag out of reach while driving. Nobody, not even your boss at work, should expect you to respond to texts while driving. If there is an absolute necessity to respond to a text, pull over and find a safe place to park first.
The Biological Evidence is Clear: Texting While Driving is Dangerous
The study showing the new brain wave pattern associated with texting was conducted at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. For 16 months, researchers examined and studied brain waves in electroencephalography (EEG) readings from 129 patients. Twenty-seven of those patients (21%) exhibited the unique brain wave pattern during texting.
For the study, patients were asked to complete a series of sensory-motor and cognitive tasks associated with communication. Patients sent text messages, made cell phone calls, and tapped their fingers and thumbs mimicking cell phone use. Researchers also observed brain waves while patients made mental calculations and eye movements. The unique brain wave pattern only occurred while patients were texting, not when they made voice calls, spoke, completed math in their heads, or simply moved their fingers.
The new brain wave pattern occurred with both cell phones and larger mobile devices like iPads. Dr. William Tatum, the lead author of the study said in a press briefing at the 2015 American Epilepsy Society meeting, “We think active text messaging actually creates an electrophysiologic potential that’s unique to some type of personal electronic device.” Researchers in this study hypothesized that the small screens on mobile devices caused the new brain wave pattern because they require intense focus. This experiment shows data exclusively on texting. New apps like Pokémon Go have caught on and can be far more distracting.
According to Dr. Tatum, “there is now a biological reason why people shouldn’t text and drive — texting can change brain waves.”
Injured by a Distracted Driver?
If you were injured in a car accident or struck by a distracted driver, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Dianne Sawaya are here to help. Contact us today at 303-974-4674.