Texting and driving is a major problem among American drivers, especially adolescents. A study just out from the Cophen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, has found that texting and driving causes more than 3,000 teen deaths and 300,000 injuries annually. These numbers surpass fatalities and injuries caused by drunken driving among teenagers (2,700 and 282,000, respectively).
The study also discovered that 49 percent of boys aged 15-18 admitted to texting while driving-45 percent of girls the same age admitted they have texted while driving. The study's lead researcher, Dr. Andrew Adesman, said his work found that "A person who is texting can be as impaired as a driver who is legally drunk," and added that a texting driver is distracted from both the movement of traffic and the function of his or her own vehicle.
Dr. Adesman and his research team hope their study will draw more attention to the risks of texting and driving. He adds, "We have very strong taboos against drinking and driving. Kids don't drink and drive every day. But some kids are out there texting and driving seven days a week - and they admit it."
Punitive damages vary from state to state. In Illinois, they're not obtainable without the judge granting permission to seek them in a trial. Punitive damages are different from statutory damages, which compensate the victim; punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant, for behaving "with an utter indifference for conscious disregard for the safety of others."
Frequently judges permit juries to award punitive damages in DUI cases, and these awards can be substantial. But texting while driving, which is at least as dangerous as driving while intoxicated, seems to muster a different public opinion-many people don't think it's a big deal, despite major pushes from safety groups (like public service advertisements) about the risks it carries. People are more willing to admit they text and drive than drink and drive, and the image of someone holding a smartphone in one hand while driving is somehow less disturbing than someone holding a beer. But, as public tolerance for texting and driving decreases (and it will; this activity claims around nine lives a day in the U.S.), it's likely that punitive damages from resulting crashes will become common in trials.
A study recently published in the journal Injury Prevention examined what happens when people text on their cell phones while crossing the street-in short, rudeness and unsafe behavior. Researchers observed 1,102 walkers at 20 different intersections in Seattle, Washington and discovered that one out of three people used their phones to talk, listen to music, or text while they crossed the street.
The texting pedestrians took 18% longer to cross the street, and were almost four times more likely to disobey traffic signals, cross mid-intersection, or walk without looking both ways. All of these actions are risky behaviors, and women were twice as likely as men to exhibit at least one of them. Interestingly, people listening to music walked slightly faster than undistracted pedestrians-but it's hard to hear oncoming traffic when you have headphones blasting.
The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 4,000 pedestrians are killed every year, and another 60,000 are injured; distracted behavior, on the part of pedestrians and drivers, is pushing these numbers up. Beyond the hazards to public safety, texting while walking, especially on crowded streets, is by most people's standards, pretty rude. When someone's texting, their eyes are on the screen, not on where they're going; they walk more slowly (holding up the people behind them) and sometimes straight into other people.