Washington may be the first state in the country to outlaw DWT.
Never heard of it? It’s driving while texting, and the Washington State House has voted to ban it. The move was prompted in part by a December pileup that shut down a stretch of Interstate 5 outside Seattle for more than an hour. Police say the accident was caused by the driver of a Dodge Caravan, who admitted that he was checking e-mail on his BlackBerry.
The bill now makes its way to the Senate in Washington, and Oregon and Arizona are considering similar bills. Opposition groups have quickly spoken out.
A wireless industry trade group, CTIA, The Wireless Association, told CBS News that lawmakers should take a wider look at the issue of driver distractions rather than focus on texting alone.
"I don't think you'd find anyone who would say that trying to text and drive is not reckless behavior," spokesman Joe Farren told the Wall Street Journal. "If you're being reckless, you should get a ticket."
As electronic gadgets become ever-more prevalent, the desire to multi-task is too tempting for some to resist. In fact, a new website called CrackBerry.com this week announced it would award prizes for the best BlackBerry addiction story posted on the site.
Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, which represents all sectors of wireless communications, says that Americans sent nearly 65 billion text messages during the first half of 2006. Also, more than 231 million people subscribed to wireless communication devices in the United States as of January 2007.
But do these devices make you more efficient? Safety issues aside, new studies say no, they just make you crazier. Researchers at the University of California, Inc.com reported, found that participants in one study focused on a task for only about 11 minutes before getting pulled off it by some distraction.
Speaking of distractions, in an article titled, “TXT MSGING IN UR CAR? :-(, the Oregonian reported that studies have documented drivers eating, drinking, daydreaming, adjusting the radio and fixing their hair while driving. That’s not to mention those who read, write, change their clothes, change baby diapers, breast-feed babies, type on computers and watch television.
"Common sense is something we assume people share, but we're often wrong. Common sense doesn't really happen," University of Utah researcher Frank Drews told the newspaper. He's done a series of studies on driver distractions, including a federally funded study last year that found that driving while on a cell phone is as big a distraction as driving while drunk.
Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, California and the District of Columbia outlaw the use of handheld cell phones while driving, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Driving while texting is even more disturbing, Drews said.
"We're doing a study on teenage drivers, and 70 percent of them admit to texting while driving. This is a very, very bad development," he said. "Unfortunately, because of their inexperience, this is one of the most vulnerable sets of drivers."
A high school senior Patrick Sims in Denver was driving less than a mile from his home and texting a friend, when his girlfriend suddenly screamed. Inches from a cyclist in the bike lane, Sims didn’t have time to react. The collision killed a 63-year-old man, CBS News reported.
"I looked away for a few seconds, and I didn't end my life, but I ended someone else's," he said.