THE REALLY SCARY NUMBERS REPORT

As if you weren’t worried enough, we saw a study that reported a scary 20 percent of drivers send text messages on their cell phones or Blackberries while driving. For drivers ages 18 to 27, the percentage shoots up to 37 percent. So, better than one in three young drivers on the road are sending and receiving text messages while they’re driving.

The study was conducted by Nationwide Mutual Insurance, a major auto insurer, which gave the accident-prone activity a new name: DWT — Driving While Texting. This resembles the police charge: DWI — Driving While Intoxicated.

We got this information through Plantronics (Plantronics.com ), a leading maker of headsets. It’s promoting its new $150 Discovery wireless headset, a miniature version that fits your ear. The key here is that this headset and many others can use Pinger, a free service from Pinger.com, instead of typing messages on the phone while you’re driving. With Pinger, your voice can be instantly sent to one recipient or a hundred, and there is no cost beyond the regular charge of your phone service provider for a single call. The recipients get a text message of a phone number to call where they hear your voice.

How bad is it out there? A Washington, D.C., teenager sent nearly 7,000 text messages (not all of them while driving) in one month for a charge of over $1,000. This is not so unusual. Verizon Wireless recently started offering unlimited text-messaging service because its previous limit of 5,000 messages a month turned out to be not enough. (If we take out eight hours for sleep, that would mean sending messages at a rate of about one every five minutes, all day long.)         

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