How Texting and Driving Could Destroy Your Business [With Legal Analysis]

Did the title of my post get your attention?  Believe me, I wish texting and driving couldn’t destroy your business, but it unfortunately has the potential to.  In this month’s post, I’m taking a break from writing about technical SEO, Paid Search, Social Media Marketing, etc. to talk about something that can make even your worst search-related problem look like a walk in the park.

Last week I was driving on 95 behind a car that suddenly started to swerve from the middle lane to the left lane, and then back across to the right lane.  After a minute or so behind the person, I decided to pass the car to get away from the problem.  As I passed the car, I glanced over and saw the driver on his mobile phone.  He was typing, so he was either texting someone, emailing someone, or maybe even checking Twitter.  I don’t know about you, but experiencing that first hand on 95 at a relatively high rate of speed really brought home the danger of texting and driving. It would only take a split second for that person to slam into another car and possibly cause a fatal accident.  And for what?  To check the latest retweet or DM?

No Shortage of Examples, With Statistics to Back Up The Problem

You don’t have to look far to read about tragedies that resulted from texting and driving.  For example, a 47 year old woman who ran a red light while texting and driving and struck an SUV carrying a family of four (killing two people, a 4 year old girl and her 35 year old mother).  Or how about a 19 year old who was texting and driving and caused another car to spin out of control (killing two men, 38 and 50 years old).  Or the story of Sam Page, whose sister slammed into a telephone pole and died as they were texting back and forth.  The list of stories goes on and on…

In addition to the heartbreaking stories, the statistics about the effects of texting and driving are mind-blowing.  For example, a study by the Viginia Tech Transportation Institute (PDF) found that drivers who text and drive are 23.2 times as likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event than non-distracted drivers.  In addition, Car and Driver ran a test of their own, showing the delay in reaction time and how much further a driver traveled beyond the point they should have stopped when texting and driving.  The reaction time for both a 22 year old and 37 year old while texting and driving were worse than being impaired by alcohol.  They also traveled 31 feet and 319 feet further than they should have when texting and driving at 70 mph.  Imagine the damage you could do if you needed to stop at one point, but ended up traveling another 319 feet!

Although the concept of texting and driving is relatively new, the abundance of disturbing cases has pushed some states to act.  You can check out to view the states have passed laws against texting while driving and there’s even a recent push against truckers and texting (which obviously makes complete sense).  But as we all know, there’s a difference between passing legislation and actually changing driver behavior.

The Business Impact of Texting and Driving

I think most of us clearly understand that you can either kill other people or kill yourself when texting and driving.  That’s obviously the worst case scenario, but there is another dangerous aspect of getting into an accident from texting (although not as grim as killing someone or being killed).  I’m referring to the potential business impact.

Let’s say that you get through an accident relatively unscathed.  Maybe you just end up with some minor injuries and the other people involved are still alive (although their cars are damaged and they possibly have a broken bone or two).  Are you really out of the woods?  What’s the potential impact for you professionally?  What can happen to the business that you worked tirelessly to build, the job you’ve been working 70 hours a week for, and your reputation?  Unfortunately, in our litigious society you’re far from being out of the woods.  Instead, you can find yourself neck deep in the woods.  And the woods I’m referring to aren’t filled with furry little bunnies and cute woodland creatures.  Instead, the legal woods are filled with rabid lawyers, judges who don’t like young punks with iPhones, and people looking to take advantage of our legal system.  Yes, welcome to America.

Business Owners Take Heed

If you are a consultant, run your own business, run an agency, or if you’re an executive at a company, you need to address the problem of texting and driving now (before you’re neck deep in the scary woods I just mentioned).  And by the way, this also relates to your employees and not just your own behavior.  On the flip side, if you’re an employee at a company and have a company-issued cell phone, you should also listen up.  The legal system is a two way street, and you can also find yourself in court.  More on that below.

Texting While Driving, A Legal Perspective

Last year I wrote a post titled, “Lawyers, Guns, and Twitter: Who Owns Your Twitter Account?” which addressed social media account ownership.  In the post, I introduced various scenarios along with my view of who actually owned the accounts created and managed by employees.  I gave my perspective as an online marketer and then I asked a lawyer I know from Princeton (Mike Pisauro) to review the scenarios and give his input from a legal-standpoint.  Needless to say, we didn’t see eye to eye on all the topics.  :) I decided to use a similar format with this post.  I’m going to list several potential business scenarios regarding texting and driving and then have Mike give his legal view.

Glenn Gabe
Featured SEO Writer for SEJ Glenn Gabe is a digital marketing consultant at G-Squared Interactive and focuses heavily on SEO, SEM, Social Advertising, Social Media Marketing, and Web Analytics. Glenn has over 18 years of experience and has held leadership positions both in-house and at a global interactive agency. During his career, Glenn has helped clients across a wide range of industries including consumer packaged goods (CPG), ecommerce, startups, pharmaceutical, healthcare, military, education, non-profits, online auctions, real-estate, and publishing. You can follow Glenn on Google+ here.

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19 thoughts on “How Texting and Driving Could Destroy Your Business [With Legal Analysis]

  1. Thank you for taking the time to touch on the dangers of texting and driving. You're right, it is extremely dangerous and can have serious implications on lives of the innocent and guilty. I want to help put an end to the texting while driving habit and created Teens Against Distracted Driving, where individuals can take a pledge to quit texting behind the wheel and receive a free bracelet. Feel free to check it out at

    1. Thanks for providing a link to your site. I can tell you that researching this post was one of the most disturbing things I've had to do. I could not believe the tragic stories I was reading. I hope you gain traction (if you haven't already).

  2. Iconosys, Inc. Launches SMS ReplierTM for Smartphone Safety

    Life-Saving Mobile Phone App Solves the Safety Problem of Texting While Driving (TWD)

    ORANGE COUNTY, CA–(Marketwire – April 7, 2010) – Texting while driving (TWD) continues to be one of the most dangerous threats on our nation's freeways, yet at any given time, over 800,000 people are engaged in this practice. Despite high-profile campaigns to discourage the practice, including Oprah Winfrey's “No Phone Zone” pledge drive which has attracted and signed nearly 2,000,000 pledgers, TWD continues to cause untold damage on our nation's (and the world's) roadways. According to the National Health Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA), distracted driving practices, including texting or reading emails while driving, accounted for approximately 6,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries in 2008 alone.

    Check them out on their website ( or their twitter!

    1. I need to check this out in more detail, but I love the idea. I saw a Blackberry app is coming soon. I'd like to be part of the beta group if possible.

  3. Or…have courses where people can practice texting and driving…there would be far less accidents if people had the tools and skillset required to text responsibly and judicially while driving. Like if people could use their knee better to steer for example.

    Its why no one talks about the radio, hotdogs, changing a CD, fiddling with the iPod, applying lipstick…we've all been doing these so long – we're good at it now.


    1. I'm assuming your comment is a joke, but I'll quickly reply anyway. You're saying that people should practice NOT LOOKING AT THE ROAD as they text and drive? I'm not sure how you expect people to pull that one off…

      If you can, go back and read the tragic stories that I listed in the first part of the post. It might change the way you think about texting and driving. The statistics are extremely disturbing.

    2. Sheru we still talk about accidents caused by eating, or changing stations/cds, or applying makeup or shaving. When those accidents occur the police merely issue careless or reckless tickets. There is not a special statute prohibiting those like there is with cellphones.

  4. Glenn this is a problem that should never have been an issue. Texting and driving don't mix. It's like oil and water but apparently people are just too stupid to realize the real dangers. Talking on the phone while driving is dangerous enough. People should look at your story and realize the it doesn't just efect them or the people the hit, it effects many more parties.

  5. There would be far less accidents if people had the tools and skillset required to text responsibly and judicially while driving.Texting and driving couldn’t destroy your business, but it unfortunately has the potential to.

  6. For anyone with an iphone, it is impossible to text while still looking elsewhere because of the lack of individual buttons that we were accustom to in previous phones. Fine with talking on your phone, texting is a walk down another path detailed nicely above. Nice post Glenn.

    1. That's a great point Adam about mobile device keyboards (and the iPhone in particular). Even looking down for a second or two could cause a serious accident (especially at high speeds). Thanks for your comment.

  7. This article is great! The scenarios are scary but I had some fun reading it. Seriously speaking it is generally known how bad it is to text while drawing, for many reasons.

    1. Thanks for your comment and I'm glad you posted a link to ZoomSafer. I'm going to download the app today and try it out. I think the concept is brilliant. I'll let you know what I think.

  8. Thanks Glenn. While there are many mobile apps out there that help remove “some” of the distractions associated with mobile phone use, the real answer is that the only safe mobile phone use for a driver is NO MOBILE PHONE USE. I encourage you to look further into the studies that show hands-free mobile use to be just as distracting as holding your mobile phone while you are driving. Our brains are simply not wired to allow us to do both effectively. Please take a moment to check out TextArrest (, a safe driving solution designed to ensure those driving a car are not distracted by any kind of mobile phone use.

    Also note that Oprah has declared April 30th National No Phone Zone Day, and has gained the support of a number of safety minded organizations, including NOYS (National Organizations for Youth Safety), NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), and TextArrest. We hope you will do what you can to further promote this important issue on April 30th as well!

    Thanks again for the great article. We look forward to hearing what you think about TextArrest!