Look in the mirror: Adults apparently text while driving even more than teens do
Despite strict laws, awareness campaigns and the desperate pleas of Oprah Winfrey, people can't stop texting while driving.
A pair of new surveys, funded by AT&T, found that nearly half of commuters admit to texting or sending e-mails while driving, and 43 percent of those commuters have a habit of doing so.
Six out of 10 respondents also said they never sent text messages from behind the wheel three years ago, suggesting that the habit is increasing.
There are more commuters who admit to texting and emailing than teenage drivers who do. Only 43 percent of teens surveyed say they text while driving. Of course, any texting while driving isfrightening.
And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found a 50 percent increase in texting while driving in 2011 when compared to similar information from 2010, even though it was illegal to do so in 35 states.
Not news to anyone
It's not that people don't know about the dangers. In the commuter survey, 98 percent of respondents said they were aware that texting while driving is hazardous. Yet 49 percent of those surveyed did so anyway.
And all of this isn't a new trend. A 2010 survey found that the number of crashes actually increased in three out of four states with laws against texting while driving.
The reality is that laws and awareness campaigns aren't enough. The best solutions are technological.
Can tech solve the problem?
For teens, parents can install apps like TextBuster and Canary to prevent texting while driving. But these apps won't help commuters who ignore the warnings about safety and can't resist picking up the phone from behind the wheel.
What's really needed are ways to make smartphone use as safe and simple as adjusting the radio.
Fortunately, the tech and auto industries are starting to work together. Some auto makers are adding Siri buttons to their vehicles, so iPhone owners can read or send text messages by voice instead of taking their eyes off the road. Vehicles are also becoming more tightly integrated with smartphones, so users can control their apps by voice or through in-car dashboards.
Rather than pretending that people are going to stop using their smartphones in the car, these methods acknowledge that it's inevitable. As long as it's done in a safe way, an increase in texting while driving doesn't have to be so tragic.