R U In Danger?

Elizabeth Rund

According to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 26 percent of cell phone users reported they couldn’t live without the device.

Utah native Ben Cook may hold the world record for the fastest fingers in the country, and there may be a Facebook group filled with students who use their trusty cell phone as a flashlight, but this technological wonder of the 21st century may be as dangerous as it is helpful.

“What R U doing?” was the last message 17-year-old Bailey Goodman’s phone received before her car collided with a tractor-trailer in western New York, killing Goodman and her four passengers, as reported to ABC News. Ontario County police are unsure whether text messaging caused the accident, but they are sure it was a factor.

Texting while driving is a common activity among teens and adults. Sixty-six percent of adult drivers admit to reading e-mails and text messages and 57 percent admit to sending messages while driving, according to the Harris Interactive Survey, commisioned by Pringer Inc.

ABC News also reported that 65 percent of 18- to 28-year-olds are sending text messages. That age group is responsible for sending 93.8 billion text messages during the last six months of 2006.

Although the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company found that 37 percent of teens found text messaging to be extremely distracting while driving, a AAA survey of 16- and 17-year-olds found that 61 percent admit to taking such risks while driving.

Of those who take risks, 51 percent say they talk on the phone and 46 percent say they text message while driving.

According to Drive for Life, the National Safe Driving Test and Initiative, more than 1.5 million police-reported crashes involve some kind of distraction. Cell phones were found responsible for 37 percent of those accidents.

“I never make calls or text while driving,” said Josh Serbrasky, a recent Kent State graduate. “I’ll answer my phone if someone calls, but I tend not to pay attention to the conversation.”

I think some people focus too much on the conversation instead of driving. They lose sight on what they are supposed to be doing.”

Although text messaging while driving poses serious risks to all those on the road, it is not the only danger.

SMS, or Short Messaging System, enables users of almost every wireless carrier to send messages to a cell phone from the Internet. The i-SAFE Times, a newsletter about Internet safety, states that once a predator has found a user name, it opens the door to all the personal information in the IM accounts, including phone numbers and addresses.

Repetitive strain injury is another effect of text messaging that is often overlooked.

According to Ergoweb.com, symptoms of this injury are pain and swelling of the thumb and wrist, as well as an inability to grip objects properly. Small, fine, repetitive movements aggravate the tendons at the base of the thumb and wrist, a condition that worsens over time.

The site advises not texting for more than five to 10 minutes at a time.

Contact features reporter Elizabeth Rund at [email protected].