Statistics paint chilling portrait of dangers of texting while driving

Motorists along Tualatin Valley Highway in Aloha may have seen billboards promoting a safety messages from the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

Two billboards — one located on Highway 8 at 214th Avenue and the other at Highway 8 at 174th Avenue — were donated for the campaign by Total Outdoor, a local advertising business.

The “Texts Cause Wrecks” billboards are intended to remind motorists that texting while driving is a leading cause of crashes. About 82 percent of young adult drivers admit they have read a text message while driving, according to a national survey conducted by the Ad Council.

For too many drivers, responding to text alerts is a reflex, so the sheriff's office is stressing the need to remove the stimulus or find other ways to avoid the "instant answer" habit.

Distracted driving is reported to be the No. 1 killer of American teens. Of all drivers younger than 20 who are involved in fatal crashes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that 16 percent were reported to have been distracted while driving, and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver. Washington County deputies believe the numbers to be much higher because the cause of crashes is not reliably reported.

Studies have indicated that reading a single text message removes a driver's attention from the road for between three and six seconds. After just three seconds at 30 to 55 mph, a vehicle will travel 131 to 241 feet. Those seconds can be the difference between having time to brake and a potentially fatal collision.

The goal of the Washington County Sheriff's Office is to educate drivers about the dangers of texting and driving.

“Ultimately, we hope to save lives,” explained Sgt. Bob Ray, sheriff's office spokesman. “Everyone, whether parents, friends, teachers or co-workers, can influence this social issue."

"Texts Cause Wrecks" is the first in a planned series of billboards by the sheriff's office.

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