Texting and driving don’t mix – and may be illegal

Dangers of texting and drivingTexting and driving: It’s nothing to LOL about. In fact, it can be hazardous to your health. The University of Kansas Health System’s Level I Trauma Center estimates distracted driving was involved in at least half the 700 patients the team treated as a result of motor vehicle accidents last year. And depending on where you live, texting and driving – even when you’re stopped at a light – can mean a traffic ticket and fine. 

In Kansas, texting and driving is illegal. In Missouri, texting and driving is against the law for those 21 and younger. 

23 times greater crash risk

These laws exist for good reason, said Tracy McDonald, program director, trauma and acute care surgery. Texting requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver. The average text takes 4.6 seconds to complete. That’s equivalent – at 55 mph – to driving blind the length of a football field. Texting while driving makes the crash risk 23 times greater, she explained.

But texting is far from the only driving distraction that increases your accident risk. Research shows using any hand-held device while driving makes you four times more likely to be injured.  

Nationally, 18 percent of motor vehicle crash injuries are due to distracted driving. Drivers most at risk for losing focus behind the wheel are those younger than 20.

Set ground rules for teen drivers

McDonald advises parents to talk to their teenage children about the dangers of multitasking when behind the wheel. Spell it out clearly for them. “No talking on the phone, no grooming, no eating,” she said. “Minimize the number of friends in the car. Above all, no texting.” 

“You can hurt yourself by driving while distracted. And you can hurt someone else,” McDonald said. “No one wants an outcome like that.”

Avoid these driving distractions

  • Texting or reading a text
  • Using a cell phone
  • Adjusting the radio or other electronics
  • Using a navigation system
  • Grooming and checking yourself in the mirror
  • Reading, including a map
  • Reaching into the back seat 
  • Watching a video
  • Talking to passengers
The University of Kansas Health System’s Level I Trauma Center is the only one in the area with national verification from the American College of Surgeons.

“Being a nationally verified trauma center means our program is among the best in the country,” McDonald said. “We are prepared for a wide range of trauma incidents – from traffic accidents to violent crimes to mass casualty emergencies, such as explosions and natural disasters.”