Thursday, September 18, 2008

Texting while Operating More Dangerous than DUI

California drunk driving criminal defense lawyers know texting is dangerous.

With California lawmakers ready to vote Thursday on an emergency order banning train operators from using cell phones, a new study finds the practice of DWT -- driving while texting -- is a growing danger on the nation's roads.

According to a new survey conducted by Nationwide Mutual Insurance, one in five drivers in a admitted to texting while behind the wheel. A second survey on, a legal website, found nearly half of drivers age 18 to 24 admitted to sending text messages, instant messages or e-mail messages while driving.

Law enforcement officials said it is nearly impossible to determine how many accidents are caused by texting because few drivers will admit to texting after being in an accident.

Engineers at the University of Massachusetts have used a simulator to study what happens when drivers multi-task -- and found the danger of texting while driving was almost as dangerous as drinking behind the wheel.

"The crash risk when you're texting is in the neighborhood of the crash risk when you've had three to four drinks of alcohol," Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst Professor Donald Fisher said. "Most people think they can get away with typing out some quick phrases while they're driving. But our research shows if you look away from the road for just a few seconds, it nearly triples your risk of crashing."

Only five states -- Alaska, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington -- have laws specifically prohibiting texting behind the wheel. California is one of 21 other states considering similar legislation.

Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, is seeking an emergency order banning train operators from using cell phones. The commission has scheduled a vote on the order Thursday.

The collision between the Metrolink train and a Union Pacific freight train killed 25 people and injured 138 people - the deadliest rail disaster in the U.S. in 15 years.

Metrolink has blamed its engineer for not heeding a red light signal designed to prevent such wrecks, and the National Transportation Safety Board is reviewing whether the engineer was text messaging.