Survey: Awareness of the risks of texting doesn’t deter most drivers

Most people in Bensalem have heard that texting markedly impairs driving performance and contributes to many accidents. Unfortunately, knowing that texting makes a motor vehicle crash more likely may not be enough to discourage many drivers from engaging in the behavior. A new survey indicates that even informed drivers, who know texting while driving is a risky choice, are still inclined to do it.

Common and dangerous decisions

Earlier this year, AT&T conducted a survey of 1,004 adults between the ages of 16 and 65, according to NBC News. The survey only included respondents who drove on a daily basis and texted fairly regularly, sending at least one text per day. The results, which were published recently, reveal that texting while driving remains a widespread problem:

· One-quarter of drivers admitted to sending texts while operating a moving vehicle, and two-thirds of drivers sent messages at stop signs and red lights.

· Overall, three-quarters of drivers confessed to some form of texting while driving.

· The overwhelming majority - 96 percent - of motorists who admitted to texting while driving stated that they understood the dangers of the behavior.

Statistics in Pennsylvania seem to reflect this discrepancy between people's knowledge and their decisions. Texting while driving is a primary offense in the state, but in 2012, more than 14,600 accidents and 57 fatalities occurred in distraction-related crashes, according to the state Department of Transportation. Distraction was a known factor in 11 percent of all state traffic accidents and over 300 fatal injuries that occurred over the last five years.

Reasons for the risky behavior

The AT&T survey also asked drivers why they choose to text while behind the wheel. The most common reason cited was a desire to keep connected with others, from family to co-workers. Habit, fear of missing an important message, peer expectations and outright addiction to texting were other underlying factors.

Addressing these issues could be challenging, as it would require changing social expectations about how accessible people should be throughout the day and especially while driving. However, one common reason for texting while driving - the belief that it does not impact personal driving performance, which 25 percent of respondents expressed - could be targeted through better awareness campaigns.

According to the National Safety Council, performing any cognitive task can worsen driving performance. Cognitive distractions slow response times, since the brain must juggle between tasks. A task that uses one part of the brain can affect the performance of a task that uses a different part; for instance, talking on a cellphone reduces the brain's ability to process visual information. Better public knowledge of these unavoidable trade-offs could help more drivers make safe decisions.

Holding negligent drivers responsible

Drivers who suffer harm because of the negligent actions of others may be able to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. However, proving that another driver was engaging in a behavior such as texting can be difficult. In these situations, the help of an experienced personal injury attorney can be invaluable.