Numbers Drive Home Dangers Of Distractions Behind The Wheel

Topeka (WIBW) - It's as bad as if you were driving drunk.

That's the finding of just one new study driving home the dangers of texting or using your cell phone while driving.

President Obama issued an executive order Thursday, banning federal workers from text messaging while behind the wheel on government business.

Distracted driving is such a concern, it sparked a two-day national summit that wrapped up Thursday in Washington.

While nearly all drivers say it is unacceptable behavior, nearly 20 percent admitted in a recent AAA survey that they had read or sent a text message while driving in the previous month.

Darlene Whitlock of Stormont-Vail TraumaCare says even those who are good at texting still must take their eyes off the road at some point to accomplish the task. She says that, undoubtedly, emergency rooms are seeing an increase in the number of accidents that occur while texting.

A recent British study found that driving while texting is like driving with a blood alcohol level of .08, legally drunk in most states.

A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study found truck drivers who texted behind the wheel were four times more likely to be in a serious crash.

Seventeen states have laws banning texting while driving and some in Congress are pushing for a national ban. A CBS News/New York Times poll shows 90-percent of people think that's a good idea. The number was smaller, 83 percent, among young adults ages 18 to 29.

While texting and cell phones are getting the most attention, Whitlock says they're not the only ways we lose focus. She says whether it's texting, changing CDs, finding something on the floor or putting on makeup, anything that causes a person to take their eyes off the road should be avoided.

Highway officials say as many as 6000 people are killed and another half-million injured each year in accidents linked to a distraction.

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