Imagine you are running late to this class, you get in your car and head down the gateway. You aren’t driving that fast, maybe 45 miles per hour, and you are lucky that there aren’t really any vehicles on the road. Your phone dings, and you grab it and glance at the screen. It is your friend asking if you want to go to lunch today. You go to send a short reply. You glance up and there is a car in front of you that you didn’t see before, you freak out, and brake hard but it is too late, you’ve already crashed. This all happened in half of a second.
Raise your hand if you have a license. Now keep your hands up if you’ve ever used your phone while driving. Either to send a text, browse social media, look at a map An astounding 69% of drivers (aged 18-64) in the U.S. admit to using their cell every single time they get behind the wheel. (CDC, 2017) : Most of us know that texting and driving is dangerous, but we still continue to do it.
When I see another person on the road, holding a phone to their ear or texting and I think, “Jeez guy! put the phone away” but I am a hypocrite because I am just as guilty. I often look at my phone when someone texts me. I look at the GPS or switch songs from Spotify, and all of these things I do takes my eyes off the road.
I will inform you on how dangerous distracted driving really is, and talk about what we can all do to stop this dangerous habit that we all have.
Distracted driving kills. Pure and simple.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles the leading cause of death of between 15-20-year old’s is from car accidents (NHTSA, 2016) Each day, 11 teens die because of texting and driving.
Texting involves manual, visual, and cognitive distraction simultaneously. Any activity that takes your eyes off the road increases the risk for accidents. A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texter. Out of every 4 traffic crashes that occur in the U.S. are caused by cell phone usage. (Teen Safe, 2018)
Laws have been made to help reduce texting and driving, but is that enough to stop people?
The city of El Paso passed a texting while driving ordinance in 2010, but effective Sept. 1, 2017 texting while driving became illegal across the entire state of Texas “One in five crashes in Texas is caused by distracted driving,” said TxDOT Executive Director James Bass. (TxDot, 2017)
Texas’ texting while driving laws outlaw the reading, writing and sending of text-based messages by drivers in moving vehicles. The ban extends beyond standard text messages to email and text or photo-based social media apps, including Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. (DMV, 2018) The violation is to read, to text or send messages. So, if you must read a map on your phone that would likely constitute as a violation.
The law also states you can use a device if your car is stopped, however that does not mean while stopped in traffic, or at a red light. Your vehicle must be at a full stop, and put in park on the side of the road in order for the cell phone to be in your hand.
We are all affected. The National Safely Counsel states that car crashes are the #1 killer of teens in the U.S. (National Safety Council, 2018)
Distracted driving killed approximately 3477 people in this country in 2015 and in 2017 that number dropped a mere 22 people. In 2017 3450 people were killed and another 391,000 were injured.
Driving distracted is compared to drunk driving since it follows the same psychological pattern: when drivers get away with driving distracted, they then continue to practice this bad habit until a crash occurs or until they are caught and suffer consequences. (AAA, 2013)
Does anyone here know approximately how long it would take for a to go from 60 mph to zero? Answer: 5 seconds At highway speeds, when you take your eyes off the road for five seconds your car travels more than 300 feet — unless you hit something first. (Daily Editorials, 2009)
Distraction can take many other forms as well. Eating as you drive, or brushing your hair, Map reading, applying makeup, resetting the radio clock, getting too involved in a discussion with a passenger or turning around to tend to your child all can pull you away from focusing on the road.
These activities, take your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, and mind off driving. I once saw a guy on the highway eating a cup of noodles with chop sticks while driving. He was swerving within his lane, trying to balance the cup of noodles, chop sticks all while holding on the steering wheel, going about 60 miles per hour.
Now that we are aware of the dangers and statistics of using our phone while driving, let’s look at some solutions that we can implement.
Turn off notifications or put your phone on silent and keep your phone somewhere out of reach so you can’t be tempted to mess with it while driving. If you have a passenger, let them control the phone.
Download a hands-free message reading app such as “Read it to me” or “Text ‘Drive”
Use a Dash mount when necessary. Can be used when needing the GPS or when using music apps and program your music or location before you put the car in drive. This should be last resort as even if you are talking hands-free, drivers can miss seeing up to half of what’s around them since they are engaged in a cell phone conversation, and it doesn’t help if a person has the compulsion to touch their phone, since it is within arm’s reach.
Stopping distracted driving begins with each of us individually making a commitment to stick to safe driving habits. You can’t control other drivers, but you can control your own driving habits.
Knowing the risks is not enough. We know the risks and still ignore it every single day. Don’t let that be you and become a statistic…STOP texting while driving! We must force ourselves and control our urges to touch our phones. Remember that distracted driving kills people. And if you are a passenger in a vehicle, and the driver is distracted, speak up.
Keeping your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road and your mind focused on driving doesn’t just make you a safer driver. It’s how you can help save lives every minute you’re behind the wheel!