AG: Texting, driving a deadly combination

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Special to Carroll County News

LITTLE ROCK -- Teenagers spend more time driving during the summer as they enjoy vacation, holidays, time with friends and as they report to summer jobs.

Attorney Dustin McDaniel issued a consumer alert this week imploring drivers, especially teens, to resist the urge to read and return texts while behind the wheel.

It is against Arkansas law to text while driving, and all cell phone use is illegal for those 18 and younger.

"A one or two word text message puts you, your passengers and everyone else on the road at risk," McDaniel said. "Whatever the message is, it can wait."

People who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

As Arkansans enjoy the summer, they should be mindful of increased risks on the highway, McDaniel said.

Research indicates that seven of the ten mostly deadly days on the highway occur during the summer months, according to the AAA Foundation.

Nearly 50 percent of teens admit to texting while driving, according to the AAA.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2008 that driver distraction was the cause of 16 percent of all fatal crashes -- 5,800 people killed -- and 21 percent of crashes resulting in an injury -- 515,000 people wounded.

State leaders' efforts to educate the public on the dangers of texting and driving have been in the news recently.

Last week, as part of a highway spending bill, the U.S. House and Senate passed "Mariah's Act," legislation named for Mariah West, an 18-year old from Rogers who died in 2009 in a car crash while she was texting with friends. Mariah's Act, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, would provide $115 million over the next two years in grants to states to develop education programs to combat the use of text-messaging devices while driving. The legislation awaits the President's signature.

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