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Every year, people are killed or injured because of drivers who are distracted by their phones. But just how dangerous is texting and driving…and how can we discourage people from doing it?

Students use unit rates to discover how far a car travels while someone sends a text message. They uncover some troubling statistics about the dangers that distracted driving poses to teens in particular, and also the general population. In the end, students discuss whether or not texting and driving should be illegal, and what a suitable punishment might be.

Students will

  • Estimate how many seconds it takes to compose a text message
  • Perform unit conversion from one rate (miles per hour) to another (feet per second)
  • Calculate how far a car travels while the driver is texting
  • Compare the dangers of texting and driving in a residential area versus the highway
  • Calculate percents to compare death rates from traffic-related accidents for teens and non-teens
  • Calculate the percent of a number to determine how many non-drivers are killed by distracted drivers
  • Discuss what should be done to try and discourage people from texting while driving

Before you begin

Students should have some experience with rates such as speed, and know how to convert between different units (e.g. hours and minutes, minutes and seconds). Note that this lesson covers a topic with serious consequences, and there may be students in your class who have been affected by a texting and driving accident in their own lives. Be sure to emphasize the seriousness of the issue with your class, as well as your expectation that they treat the discussion with sensitivity and maturity.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices

Additional Materials

  • Stopwatches


AT&T, U.S. Department of Transportation, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NBC News