Distracted Driving: Don’t Do It!

A lot of people do it. It’s right there, buzzing away. Your phone just went off, alerting you to a text message from someone. Who is it from? What if it’s important? OMG, I have to read it right now or it’s going to drive me crazy! So, you pick up your phone and look away from the road, the next thing you know you are waking up in hospital wondering what happened and why you can’t feel your legs.

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That may seem dramatic; but, on average, someone is injured every 1.9 seconds through distracted driving. Distracted driving can be defined as: ”any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” These driving hazards include:

Texting

Talking on a cell phone or smartphone or using an app on any device

Eating and drinking

Talking to passengers

Grooming

Reading, including maps

Using a navigation system

Watching a video

Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

By far, text messaging is the biggest driving hazard of them all. That is because texting pulls a driver’s visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the task at hand: driving safely. On average, if you text and drive, you are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident.

Statistics That Matter

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The drivers that are most vulnerable to having an accident related to distracted driving are those who have less than ten years experience behind the wheel. Older drivers do not control their vehicles better, they are just less apt text and drive, but not immune to it. Unfortunately, many drivers are tired of being told ”Don’t text and drive”, so we are going to back up the assertion with some statistics that you may not be aware of.

First, let’s start with two studies out of the United States. In 2009, Hosking and colleagues published the results of a study involving twenty inexperienced drivers. Each driver was asked to retrieve and send text messages from their cellphone while using a driving simulator. The results showed that drivers ”spent up to approximately 400 percent less time looking at the road as compared to time looking at the road recorded in baseline (non-text-messaging) conditions.” Additionally, drivers swerved within and out of their lane 50 percent more often than non-texting drivers. Texting also caused drivers to miss their lane changes 140 percent more often. The texting drivers were twice as likely to crash their cars than drivers who were simply talking on their phone.

Drews, et al, released in 2009 as well, looked at the influences that texting had on drivers, again using a simulator, but studying 40 drivers. When engaged in dual tasking(in this case driving while texting) drivers displayed a significantly slower response time to the brake lights of other cars as well as less forward and lateral control than the drivers who had the single task of driving to concentrate on. As you would expect from a slower response time and poor control, the texting drivers were involved in significantly more crashes. 

Those are not the only studies conducted that show distracted driving is dangerous. Other studies have shown:

Drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes.(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

At any minute of the day 660,000 drivers are using an electronic device according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey.

On average, a driver looks at their phone for five seconds each time they glance down at it. That is long enough to travel 33m at highway speeds…driving blind the whole distance!

Using a headset or Bluetooth technology is not significantly safer than using a handheld device.

23 percent of all crashes involve at least one distracted driver. That is 1.3 million crashes in the U.S. alone.Texting-and-driving

What Can Be Done

While the statistics here are taken heavily from American studies and government agencies, they are typical of the results found around the world. As such, many of the world’s governments are studying ways to reduce deaths and accidents from distracted driving.

There has been a global effort to work with auto manufacturers and cellphone companies to develop software that will disable certain aspects of a cellphone and in-dash technology while driving. Theoretically, these technologies would detect vehicle speed, then disable all cellphones within a certain radius until the vehicle falls below that speed again. The majority of the tech being researched measures the speed of the cellphone itself, then transmits a ”kill code” via Bluetooth that creates a dead zone within the car.

Apple is approaching the issue from its own point of view. While on a similar track as other companies, Apple’s patent application for ”Driver handheld computing device lock-out” proposes using a camera to detect moving scenery or a motion detector to sense speed. If the motion exceeds a set speed, texting and other features of the device would be locked out until a reverse signal is sent.

All of these technologies are in the most basic aspects of the research phase. The significant tool available to the average person today is education. Many agencies have tried a variety of approaches to educate the driving masses about how dangerous it is to text and drive. The most common approach is to use television and the internet to show the statistics, even crashes that involved distracted drivers. The underlying message is: Statistics show that if you text and drive, you become a driving hazard. Driving hazards kill drivers every day. Don’t become a statistic!