TMCnet’s Amy Tierney interviewed Dave Grannan, President & CEO of Vlingo in her article “Awareness Needed to Prevent Driving While Texting Accidents”.

Numerous studies have shown that texting while driving is downright dangerous. In fact, a recent poll by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 87 percent of people consider drivers texting or e-mailing pose a “very serious” safety threat.

But despite the threat, drivers continue to practice the bad habit. What’s needed, industry officials say, is widespread awareness to educate drivers on the dangers and safety issues texting poses in the car.

According to the AAA survey, more than half of those drivers who admitted to reading or sending text messages or e-mails while driving indicated they were much more likely to have an accident. In addition, more than two-thirds admitted to talking on a cell phone and 21 percent said they read or sent a text message or e-mail while driving in the past month.

Those findings are similar to a report Vlingo,a Cambridge, Massachusetts maker of speech-recognition technology for mobile phones, conducted earlier this year. Vlingo’s study indicated that 26 percent of mobile phone users admitted to texting behind the wheel.

“Tougher action needs to be taken on those drivers caught driving while texting,” Dave Grannan, CEO of Vlingo told TMCnet in an interview. “Fines won’t prevent users from driving while texting.”

As legislation gets underway, companies like Vlingo are issuing their own warnings to customers, recommending that drivers don’t anything else while operating a car. For drivers that have to talk and drive, Vlingo technology solutions makes the practice safer, Grannan said.

An application like Vlingo lets users send and reply to e-mails and text messages, and search the mobile Web by speaking into the device. Users also have a text-to-speech read-back feature for hands-free confirmation of what was spoken and the ability to speak action requests such as “send.”

Other studies demonstrate the danger involved when drivers are distracted with cell phones. A recent study from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which measured the time that drivers took their eyes from the road to send or receive texts, found that in the moments before a text-related crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices. That is enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field.

Currently, seven states have laws banning texting while driving, while others have partial laws. But that isn’t enough, Grannan said.

“Until states nationwide have a full ban, or law on driving while texting and until the dangers of driving while texting are made very aware to all drivers, people will continue to use their phone while driving if there,” he said.

Text-messaging likely played a role in the tragic accident in Los Angeles last fall in which a commuter train collided with a Union Pacific freighter, killing 25 people. The National Transportation Safety Board said a Metrolink engineer driving the commuter train sent a text message 22 seconds before the crash, according to a CNN report. The engineer, Robert Sanchez, was among those who died in the Sept. 12 accident in a northwest Los Angeles suburb.

And in May, nearly 50 people were injured when a Boston trolley operator crashed into a stopped trolley near Government Center Station. The operator, who admitted sending a text message shortly before the accident, was later fired. Since then, the MBTA implemented a ban on cell phone use by operators.

“Last year, only 26 states had full bans or partial bans on the books,” Grannan said. “This year, 30 states have some form of law on the book against driving white texting, but it doesn’t matter – people are still driving while texting. States need to raise more awareness.”