First off, if you're behind the wheel, reading this on your smartphone while driving down the road -- put the phone down and focus on driving. Text your friends about it after you stop the car in a safe place.
Unfortunately, many drivers don't follow that rule-of-thumb and instead, use their thumbs to communicate in a very dangerous way while driving -- texting.
A new AAA study finds that U.S. motorists believe driving while texting is nearly as dangerous as driving while drunk.
"As mobile technology evolves at a breakneck pace," AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger said, "more and more people rightly fear that distracted driving – phone calls, e-mails and texting – is a growing threat on the highways."
California law prohibits using mobile devices to text message or e-mail while driving. Drivers over 18 are allowed to talk on the phone while driving, but only if they use a hands-free device.
A recent survey of 2,500 U.S. residents ages 16 and older by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 90 percent of those surveyed believe drunken driving poses a very serious threat to their safety; 87 percent said text messaging or e-mailing while driving is just as dangerous.
However, more than two-thirds of survey respondents admitted to talking on a cell phone, hands-free or otherwise, while driving in the past month, and 21 percent said they have read or sent a text message or e-mail while driving, according to AAA.
Even with a hands-free device, talking on the phone while driving is far from safe. Several studies have shown that talking on the phone either hands-free or not quadruples chances of being in a crash.
"There are many motorists who would never consider drinking and driving, yet they think it‘s somehow okay to text or e-mail while driving." Kissinger said. We need to stigmatize distracted driving to the same degree as drunk driving in our culture, because both behaviors are deadly."
The bottom line of the study is safety -- driving while inTEXTicated is very dangerous and could land someone in an emergency room, next to the victim of an intoxicated driver.
Bay City News contributed to this report.