Keep Texting Off Colorado Highways

The most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show a nationwide increase in the use of hand-held devices while driving. And here in Colorado, stats about texting and car accidents are reported over and over again. Legislators and media outlets have been quoting these numbers since just before and ever since the December 2009 activation of Colorado’s new cell phone laws.

Interestingly, drivers in Western states show the greatest increase in this type of distracted driving: up from 0.6 percent of drivers in 2007 to 2.1 percent in 2008. No wonder Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter was eager to sign into law a ban on texting while driving in Colorado. It took just one month for the police to hand out the first ticket under the new law, to a 19-year-old woman who caused a car accident in Aurora, admittedly while texting, on Jan. 3 of this year.

Distraction.gov teaches us that there are three ways in which automobile drivers become distracted while at the wheel. Visual distraction comes from taking the eyes off the road. Manual distraction comes by taking the hands off the wheel. Cognitive distraction comes through taking the mind off of the task at hand. All drivers, at times, are guilty of being inattentive at the wheel. It’s important to note, however, that using a hand-held device while driving places all three forms of distractions at odds with the task at hand: careful, defensive driving that avoids a car accident.

Laws against distracted driving can be difficult to enforce until after a car accident actually occurs. Even in the case of Colorado’s ban on texting, lawmakers and law enforcement officials say their primary aim is to teach drivers to avoid danger, rather than ticket them for infractions.

With that in mind, an NHTSA report on driver electronics use estimates 11 percent of moving vehicles in the U.S. are being driven by a distracted driver on a cell phone, And, so far, cell phone bans of any kind in any state have not proven to lower the numbers of crashes, says a January news release from the Highway Loss Data Institute.

Perhaps Colorado shouldn’t wait for our drivers to prove or disprove how well the Colorado texting ban will decrease car accidents and injuries. A Class A Colorado traffic infraction costs $50 for the first offense and $100 for each offense thereafter. If fifty bucks doesn’t seem like a strong enough deterrent for some teens and harried business people, parents and business owners can take matters into their own hands with innovative software that disables texting while driving.

WebSafety, Inc. from Irving, Texas, has developed CellSafety software that establishes safety zones and information filters for mobile devices on which it’s installed. For a monthly subscription fee, the software administrator can block specified cell phone users from texting from a moving vehicle. In the name of saving money on insurance costs, employee or family healthcare and employee or children’s well-being, business owners and parents can increase safety for everyone on Colorado roads.