Texting While Driving Could Spell Trouble

Typing in traffic could be happening in the driving lane next to you.

Drivers who take their eyes off the road to text and e-mail, keying in messages into cell phones, PDAs and BlackBerrys while racing down the road, are indulging a dangerous habit.

One April 2006 study found that 80 percent of crashes, and 65 percent of near crashes, are caused by distractions -- from putting on makeup to writing and eating. And teens say that texting is their No. 1 driving distraction, according to another 2006 study from Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

Now, some states are cracking down on the problem.

Next week, Washington will become the first state to ban "driving while texting." At least three states and the District of Columbia already ban using cell phones without hands-free devices.

'I Know It's Not Safe'

ABC News' Pittsburgh affiliate found high school senior April Austin typing into her cell phone with two hands while behind the wheel. They followed her home and asked if she thought texting was a safety risk.

"Yeah, but I don't do it all the time," Austin said. "I know it's not safe."

It wasn't safe when a school bus driver reportedly texting on his cell phone lost control of a bus. The accident injured 30 children, severing the hand of Makeba Fitzgerald's daughter.

"A bus driver shouldn't be text messaging when -- or talking on the phone -- when he has the lives of young children," Fitzgerald said. "You're jeopardizing the lives of tomorrow."

Educating vs. Legislating

But not everyone is in favor of legislating against texting and e-mailing while driving.

The cell phone industry recently produced a public service announcement to make consumers realize the danger of using phones while driving. They say educating people is better than enacting new laws.

"There is no doubt an educated driver is a better driver," said John Walls, vice president of CTIA -- the Wireless Association. "A law that is very difficult to enforce and puts the onus on the officers, as if they need more burdens right now, I don't know if that really gets to the crux of the problem."

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