School of Public Health

UNTHSC researchers release significant findings on texting while driving


Published: October 5, 2010

University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) School of Public Health professors Fernando Wilson, PhD, and Jim Stimpson, PhD, have recently released a report in the American Journal of Public Health showing that texting while driving resulted in an estimated 16,000 fatalities in the U.S. from 2001 to 2007.  The report indicates that a growing percentage of distracted drivers in fatal crashes are male, driving alone and involve collisions with roadside obstructions.

Dr. Wilson, assistant professor of Health Management and Policy, and Dr. Stimpson, assistant professor, Social and Behavioral Sciences, analyzed traffic fatalities across the U.S. from 1999 to 2008 in what is being noted as one of the first efforts to place a scientific number on the amount of motor vehicle deaths resulting from cell phone use.

The report used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on motor vehicle deaths in each state and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports on increasing cell phone ownership and texting volume over the targeted years.  They noted that in 2002, one billion texts were sent every month on average, and this number skyrocketed to 110 billion by 2008.  For every one million new cell phone subscribers, Drs. Wilson and Stimpson estimate a 19 percent rise in deaths from distracted driving.  The researchers concluded that the recent and rapid increases in cell phone usage and texting may be responsible for thousands of additional road fatalities annually in the United States.