Many transportation officials have compared driving while texting on a mobile device to driving with one's eyes closed or being impaired while driving. They all seem to agreed that DWT (driving while texting) is just as dangerous as DWI or driving under the influence (DUI) or not wearing a seat belt.
Virginia Tech University conducted a study that showed that the risk of having a vehicle accident or a "close call" goes up about 23 times when a driver is texting. Another study showed that about half of all teenagers send or receive text messages while driving.
Here in the Ozarks with all the winding roads, texting while behind the wheel can be next to impossible and about twice as dangerous as driving on a straight road.
Texting became an illegal activity to do while driving on Aug. 28 in Missouri for drivers 21 and under. Any under age driver caught texting while driving can face a fine of up to $200 and charged with a moving violation based on how many points on the driver's license.
"This change in the law to ban texting will help protect the safety of these less experienced drivers, their passengers and other motorists," said Gov. Jay Nixon. "We want to educate young drivers and their parents so they know about this new rule of the road and put away their cell phone, Blackberry or other texting device when behind the wheel."
"Protecting young drivers is an important part of public safety on our roadways," Lt. Col. Richard Coffey, Missouri State Highway Patrol assistant superintendent, said. "Those drivers and their parents need to be aware that the Missouri State Highway Patrol will be enforcing this new law. This law also should serve as a reminder that all drivers, not just teens, should focus on the road and not on distractions that can cause accidents."
But it's not just teenagers that are distracted by texting on the road, Lt. Col. Coffey said, but all drivers can become impaired by the distraction.
Sept. 30, President Barack Obama, after he was informed about the hazards of texting while behind the wheel, signed an executive order banning federal workers from texting while driving government vehicles or government equipment or while on government business.