It’s easy to tell when motorists are using cellphones while driving.
They will wander about the lane they are in or wait a bit too long before proceeding from a stoplight.
They will blow past traffic signals without hesitation because they are paying attention to their cellphones instead of the road.
Or they will plow into other automobiles because they just didn’t realize they had to stop the vehicle they were driving.
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And at night, cellphones cast an eerie light on the driver’s face.
Yet a lot of motorists still want others on the road to think they aren’t texting when behind the wheel.
Often the truth comes out when a wreck happens, and a check of cellphones shows which driver was distracted because of texting. Guess who then is pinned with being responsible for the crash and all of the resulting damage?
AT&T’s data scientists recently estimated the rate of texting while driving in the U.S. through the use of algorithms and analysis.
Here’s what they found: More drivers adhered to the rules in states with anti-texting laws than in states without them.
That’s bad news for motorists in Missouri, because it’s one of four states – along with Arizona, Montana and Texas – without comprehensive bans on texting.
In those states, sending and receiving messages by cellphones was about 17 percent higher among motorists than in the states with statewide prohibitions.
Missouri does have an anti-texting law, but it applies only to drivers 21 and younger.
The figures show that states like Missouri need to make their bans cover all motorists. Not doing that will result in more near misses, traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities because of cellphone-related distracted driving.
AT&T’s examination is part of the communications company’s It Can Wait campaign to get more people to be aware of the dangers they create for themselves and others when they are using their cellphones while driving. More than 8 million people have taken the It Can Wait pledge to keep their eyes on the road and not on their phones.
While 90 percent of people say they know that texting while driving is dangerous, 71 percent of motorists continue to engage in the risky behavior.
That’s despite a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report showing that 411 fatal crashes in the U.S. in 2013 involved the use of cellphones as distractions. That was 14 percent of all fatal distraction-related crashes.
About 34,000 people were injured in 2013 in crashes involving cellphone use or other cellphone-related activities, the federal agency reported. That was 8 percent of all people injured in distraction-related crashes.
New research from AT&T also notes that texting isn’t the only dangerous activity taking place behind the wheel. Four in 10 smartphone users actually spend time on social media while they are driving.
Almost 3 in 10 are surfing the Internet with their smartphones, which are actually mini — though very powerful — computers. And if that isn’t enough, 1 in 10 drivers is actually engaged in video chats.
Can you scream OMG? Texting and emailing remain the most dominant activities of motorists with smartphones.
Among drivers on social media, Facebook remains the biggest draw. About 1 in 7 motorists polled said they are on Twitter when driving.
Of the smartphone uses of motorists: 61 percent admitted to texting; 33 percent, emailing; 28 percent, Web surfing; 27 percent, Facebook; 17 percent, snapping a selfie/photo; 14 percent, Twitter; 14 percent, Instagram; 12 percent, shooting a video; 11 percent, Snapchat; and 10 percent, video chat.
All of this information should help make more people aware of the problem and encourage motorists to reduce their dangerous cellphone use.
It’s bad enough when distracted driving because of texting happens in a car. The danger is worse when sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, vans, buses and tractor-trailers are involved.
Motorists in states like Missouri also could face higher rates from insurance companies because of the increased likelihood that auto owners will be texting while driving, placing them at greater risk of wrecks.
Dumb behind-the-wheel use of smartphones is costly in property damage, injuries and lives that are senselessly placed at risk.