I don’t understand it. I’ve seen the commercials about distracted driving – some of them incredibly disturbing. I’ve seen the threads that appear on Facebook and Twitter that are equally emotional. I’ve read the news reports and have been saddened to hear about yet another life lost tragically because of distracted driving. And yet, almost every time I take my teenaged daughter out for a driving lesson, I find myself pointing to passing examples of ‘don’t do that’, ‘oh my goodness did you see how close that was’, and ‘please don’t ever do’ in relation to something we’re seeing. Am I really in the minority of people seeing and understanding the impact of distracted driving?
What is distracted driving?
Just in case people still don’t understand what distracted driving actually is, the Official U.S. Government for Distracted Driving makes it pretty clear saying “distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.” Sounds pretty clear right?
But they go on to even list such activities, just in case there is any misunderstanding. The list includes: Texting and using a cell phone – of course.
Watching a video – yikes, should that even need to be on the list?
Reading and that includes using a map – and in case you thought using a GPS was exempt, that made the list too.
It also includes grooming – I wish I could tell you that just meant not doing a hair check in the rearview but it also means applying lipstick, shaving and all of the other self-care things people seem to think they can do behind the wheel of a car, including changing clothes.
And here’s the category that hopefully is the only one you may question – eating, drinking, and talking to people.
Now, I know, you’ve done at least some of these before, especially the activities you don’t really consider to be distracted driving. You probably, at one time or another, even ate and drank and carried on a heated conversation with someone in the backseat at the same time, but the bottom line is, these are all still considered distracted driving, both for what they involve – taking your focus off driving, and for the potential issues they can create – spilling or dropping something or turning your view to look at someone to emphasize a point.
Before you go on to read the hard facts about distracted driving, you need to know that these are the result of distracted driving in all categories, not just what you may think of as ‘qualifying’ as distracted driving.
In 2014, more than 3,100 people were killed and more than 431,000 people were injured in accidents involving distracted driving. Need perspective? That’s the entire populations of Talahassee, Florida; Athens, Georgia; and Springfield, Illinois, plus a few, gone, in one year.
Across the U.S., at any given time of day, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. And, the percent of drivers visibly texting or using handheld devices is on the rise. This is after the public awareness campaigns, after the media grabbed hold of distracted driving as an issue, and after police across the country started running campaigns aimed at stopping distracted driving.
As of December 2014, 169.3 billion texts were sent every month in the U.S. I guarantee you, we don’t have that much to say. I also guarantee you that every single one of those could have just as effectively been sent half an hour later than it was and outside the space of a vehicle.
Five seconds. Five seconds is the average time your eyes are away from the road while texting – even if it’s a quick text – even if you’re just checking to see who texted you and whether it was urgent (it isn’t by the way). Don’t believe me? Get someone you’re in the room with to text you and then have them time you to see how long it takes you to see what they said.
Still don’t believe me? Talk to my friend who works in the towing service industry about the things he’s seen, about the accidents he’s attended and the excuses he’s heard. Talk to a paramedic or a police officer and ask for just one story about an accident they attended.
Distracted driving has to stop. Don’t be the person who waits until it’s too late to change.