There are a lot of things I could do to put my PC in danger. I could join an unsecured wireless network or open an e-mail attachment from a person I don’t know or fail to update my system software or search for free movies—especially naughty movies.
All of these things put me at risk of being exploited by cybercriminals. So I just don’t do them. Yet I have to admit that I’ve needlessly put myself (and others) in danger while on the Internet.
Yes, I used to text and email while driving. Since texting while driving became illegal in my state this summer, I stopped (with one or two exceptions). But until yesterday, I had no idea how dangerous poking at my little phone with my thumbs truly is.
According to a new study, drivers distracted by their cell phones killed 16,000 people in the United States from 2001-2007. Even as traffic deaths have fallen to the lowest levels since the 1950s, deaths caused by distracted drivers have risen by 4.1%. And distracted driving fatalities increased dramatically starting in 2005—right around the time texting became a mainstream activity in America.
Statistics show that if I text while driving, I am 23 times more likely to get in an accident. Texting makes my reaction times as slow as a man twice my age. And what’s scariest of all is that reading texts is more harmful to my driving than writing them. This suggests that as our phones become increasingly connected to Facebook walls and Twitter and YouTube, they become increasingly dangerous in the hands of a driver.
And the problem is only getting worse. The researchers behind this study predict that distracted driving will increase 19% for every 1,000,000 new cell phone users.
These numbers may be too optimistic. Our cell phones are becoming more intelligent, more addictive and more distracting all the time. And as features like video chat become standard, the potential for distraction multiplies exponentially.
I love my phone. I admit it. But now that I’m aware of how negatively it impacts me, I’d be a fool to use it while driving.