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'Can't Text, I'm Driving!'

EAST LANSING, Mich., July 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Text messaging and driving is a deadly mix, according to the Michigan State Medical Society. Statistics show that drivers are six times more likely to become distracted and cause an accident if they are text messaging.

Distracted drivers account for almost 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Top distractions among drivers are cell phone use including texting, reaching for a moving object inside the vehicle, looking at an object or event outside of the vehicle, talking with other passengers, eating, reading, applying makeup, driving angry, fidgeting with controls, and loss of direction.

Text messaging while driving leads the list as the biggest distraction while driving, according to Students Against Destructive Decisions and Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. Their recent study revealed that text-messaging while driving is "becoming as dangerous as drinking and driving in terms of inhibiting one's driving abilities."

"Driving while changing the radio is distracting enough, let alone taking your eyes off the road to type even a short sentence or two," said MSMS president Richard E. Smith, MD, a Detroit obstetrician/gynecologist. "It's very dangerous."

One of the most widely known accidents caused by text messaging while driving was in June 2008 when five teen girls from Rochester, New York, were killed in a collision with a tractor. Police reports indicated that the driver of the vehicle was texting just seconds before the accident.

A Harris Interactive Poll from August 2008 shows nine out of 10 American adults believe that sending text messages or e-mails while driving is "distracting, dangerous, and should be outlawed."

No state has yet adopted a universal law banning text messaging and cell phone use while driving, however, 13 states already prohibit texting while driving with many states conforming to this idea quickly. Currently, six states prohibit the use of hand held phones while driving. Michigan is not one of them.

Michigan Senator Samuel Thomas from Detroit introduced a bill in the Michigan Senate in March that would ban the use of cell phones for "engaging in nonverbal communication with another person, playing a game, or entering data." Violators would be charged with a civil infraction and would be fined $100.

"The major problem is that too many people believe they can multitask and do everything at one time," Doctor Smith said. "In the end, it's not going to make much of a difference whether someone answers a text right away or within the next 20 minutes. Stay safe and stay text-free while driving. Lives depend on it."

The Michigan State Medical Society is the professional association of more than 15,000 physicians in Michigan. The mission of MSMS is to promote a health care environment that supports physician in caring for and enhancing the health of Michigan citizens through science, quality and ethics in the practice of medicine. Visit the MSMS website at for other health-related information.

SOURCE Michigan State Medical Society
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