Putting The Brakes On Texting When Driving

Dr. Jennifer Weiss, assistant professor of orthopedics at the University of Southern California, types out a message on her palmOne Treos, a cell phone-size messaging device, at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2005. Repetitive motion injuries are invading the mobile handheld world. Weiss, who does not suffer from the malady, often referred to as "Blackberry Thumb." (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
AP
Self-employed publicist Lee Keller spends hours a day on Seattle's roads. But she makes good use of her time – text messaging with her Blackberry to stay connected.

"I always keep it here so obviously I can see the road," Keller says.

"This is invaluable, this allows me to have eight or 10 clients and a busy little business and a very busy five-year-old and a family that is constantly needing me," she tells CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes.

Keller is not alone. According to a recent insurance company survey, one in five people between 18 and 60 years old drives while text messaging. For young people, the numbers go even higher, to one in three.

Last year a man who was driving and reading his Blackerry set off a five-car pileup on a Seattle interstate. Legislators in Washington decided it was time to put the brakes on driving while texting.

"The fact is, it is a very, very dangerous activity," said Washington state Rep. Joyce McDonald. "Not only do people jeopardize their own lives, but they're jeopardizing the lives of everyone else on the road."

Washington is the first state to make texting while driving illegal. But five more states have similar legislation being considered.

In California, like a handful of other states, it will soon be illegal to drive while talking on a handheld phone, but those laws don't mention texting.

"AAA has done studies that show anything that takes your eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles your risk of a crash," says Marie Montgomery, a AAA spokeswoman.

Today Washington makes both hand-held cell phones and texting illegal. So people like Lee Keller are going to have to get creative – or face a fine as high as $250.

"I am going to need to pull over to the side of the road and answer and deal with e-mail," Keller says.