You know an issue is gaining traction when the daytime TV queen gets involved.

On the heels of a Virginia Tech study on cell phone use and driving distraction showing that truckers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or close call while texting, Oprah has taken the issue head-on. She committed a full show on January 18 to the issue, comparing texting to driving after four drinks, and declaring the practice “absolutely stupid.”

According to the print arm of Winfrey’s empire, O Magazine, the problem is science, not personality.

“Despite employing 100 billion neurons to process information at rates as high as 1,000 times a second,” Marois says, “the human brain has a crippling inability to do two tasks at once.” Small wonder that the American College of Emergency Physicians reports a rise in texting-related emergency room visits. A new British study has found that texting while driving slows reaction time more than being drunk or high. The results can be deadly, as with the California train wreck in September that involved a texting engineer.

Social experts also warn about an eerie disconnect when we’re out with our BFFs while texting friends, family, and the office. “There is a certain degree of ‘absent presence’ associated with the use of mobile phones and other personal media in the presence of others,” notes researcher Scott Campbell, PhD, assistant professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan. “People disengage, or pay more attention to the person on the phone than to the people who are physically present.”

In other words, we’re hardwired to focus on single duty at a time. Multitasking is largely a (potentially dangerous) myth.

The result? More and more states (19 so far with total bans) have already been cracking down on distraction and implementing new laws about texting, including legislation in Texas last September. Now, Capitol Hill is joining the campaign.

According to the Washington Post,

On Tuesday, the federal government formally barred truckers and bus drivers from sending text messages while behind the wheel, putting its imprimatur on a prohibition embraced by many large trucking and transportation companies.

“We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This is an important safety step, and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.” …

In announcing the ban, LaHood mentioned data compiled last year by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The agency said that texting drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 out of every six seconds. At 55 mph, he said, that means a texting driver travels the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road.”

Texting and driving is an oft-discussed issue at Comedy Guys Defensive Driving. We’ll keep you updated on all the latest laws and developments (and, of course, your options concerning defensive driving if you get caught).

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