Driving + Texting = Death.
That’s the answer Bob Honea keeps coming up with, even if he doesn’t have all the numbers yet to fill out the equation.
“Intuitively, we all know it,” said Honea, director of the Transportation Research Institute at Kansas University.
Driver distraction — including the sending and receiving text messages while operating a motor vehicle — ranks among the nine major issues facing transportation these days, according to a new report from the institute.
Honea and other representatives will discuss details of their report Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where they will be attending the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board.
Honea acknowledges that nobody should be surprised that texting while driving isn’t all that bright of an idea — “It’s a no-brainer,” he said — but institute officials are hoping to help lay the groundwork for doing something about it.
The first step, Honea said, is to gather more data about the problem. That means being sure that law-enforcement personnel make a concerted effort to investigate — or at least keep track of — instances when cell phones and other wireless devices are in use during accidents.
Determining whether a particular call or text message “caused” an accident isn’t as important, he said, as simply documenting when such communications are involved.
Connecting cause and effect can come later through number-crunching and related analyses.
“It’s like smoking and cancer,” Honea said. “You infer it. Statistics show something is happening, but you have to have the statistics to do that.”
The institute says that use of cell phones and other wireless devices while driving officially leads to 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries annually in the United States. Honea and others maintain that those numbers are severely underreported or recorded, something that establishing a uniform system for collecting data could help correct.