Texting while driving down in city, county

Texting and driving incidents have decreased in the city of Murray, and as a result, accidents and collisions have seen an overall decline.

Murray State Public Safety Captain Roy Dunaway said the Murray-Calloway County region had 74 citations issued for use of a personal communication device during 2012, which is prohibited while operating a motor vehicle in Kentucky.

The law states, “No person may write, send or receive a text-based communication, including text messages, instant messages and emails, while operating a motor vehicle that is in motion.”

Along with Kentucky, 38 other states have similar laws that prohibit texting while driving.

As of Feb. 18, there have been four citations issued regarding using a cell phone while driving.

The cost of receiving a citation for texting and driving in Calloway County is $25. Along with the tickets, court costs in Calloway County are $143, roughly $175 total if caught using a cell phone while driving.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s website, studies show that drivers who send or receive text messages focus their attention away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, this is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded.

In Calloway County, between Jan. 1, 2012 and Feb. 18, 2013 there have been a total of 1,572 motor vehicle accidents. Of these accidents, 177 were collisions with injury, 9 collisions with a fatality and 1,386 collisions with property damage.

Compared to this time last year, the number of accidents in Calloway County is down from to 255 to 162.

Murray State Chief of Police David DeVoss said there is an unexplained reduction of 36.47 percent for the listed time periods.

He said a car driver dialing a cell phone is 2.8 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-distracted driver.

“Talking or texting on a cell phone causes nearly 25 percent of car accidents,” DeVoss said. “Of cell phone related tasks, including talking, dialing or reaching for the phone, texting while driving is the most dangerous.”

He said five seconds is the average time it takes to read a text, which does not factor in the amount of time to return or type a text.

The National Safety Council estimates about 636,000 crashes are attributable to cell phone use each year.

Trooper first-class Jay Thomas, who works at the Mayfield Kentucky State Police post, said the goal of the KSP is to enforce all laws and keep the people of Kentucky safe.

“Distracted driving is more than just being on a communication device,” Thomas said. “There are people who are on their computers while driving, putting on makeup, eating breakfast or supper while driving and they are not paying attention to the task at hand, which is driving their vehicle.”

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety, texting while driving is the same as driving after consuming four beers.

Thomas said the KSP is hosting some programs at the high school level to teach students about the dangers of texting and driving.

“We discourage any type of distracted driving whether it’s talking on the cell phone, texting or checking email,” Thomas said. “We want our drivers to pay attention to the road and the vehicle they are driving.”

Story by Meghann Anderson, News Editor.