13 Aug Why Texting & Driving Is a Lethal Combination
Texting while driving is one of the most common and dangerous distracted behaviors that you can engage in. Keeping your eyes and mind on the road will keep you and everyone else on the road safe.
Even though almost every driver acknowledges that using a smartphone while driving is dangerous, many still do so anyway. The need to stay online in an increasingly connected world, as well as the availability and reliability of every form of communication, has made today’s highways and byways riskier for everyone.
According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of Americans own some sort of cellphone or smartphone. A survey by AAA found that about the same number of drivers believe that texting or e-mailing while driving is unacceptable behavior. Yet 35% of drivers have admitted to doing so at least once.
This disconnect is fueling the growth of distracted driving as a leading cause of crashes.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving can describe any number of activities a driver does that takes their attention away from driving. While this can include eating, talking, or adjusting the car stereo, the lethal combination of with texting and driving has been rising to surpass these other common forms of distraction.
According to Zendrive, an analytics provider, about 60% of drivers use their phone at least once while they’re behind the wheel, and, in 2017, drivers spent an average of three minutes and 40 seconds per hour using their phones while driving, a 10-second increase compared to 2016.
The numbers don’t lie. Consider that being distracted for just five seconds at 55 mph will result in traveling the length of a football field with your eyes off the road. Speed and road fatalities are directly proportional, so traveling at high speeds while distracted not only increases the likelihood of getting into an accident, it also increases its severity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nine people are killed and over 1,000 are injured every day in crashes related to distracted driving; adding up to more than 3,400 deaths and 391,000 injuries in 2015 (the latest data available).
The CDC outlines three types of distractions drivers engage in:
- Visual distractions: Drivers taking their eyes off the road
- Manual distractions: Drivers taking their hands off the wheel
- Cognitive distractions: Drivers taking their mind off of driving
The CDC noted in its findings that texting is an especially dangerous form of distracted driving, because it requires drivers to engage in all three forms of distraction.
Combatting Texting and Driving
With the internet and almost everyone you know accessible at your fingertips, it can be tempting to reach for your phone while you’re behind the wheel, especially if you’re stuck in traffic with nothing to do. Here are some tips that can help you keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes and mind on the road:
- Airplane mode: Setting your phone to airplane mode disables all network capabilities, Wi-Fi, and GPS, meaning you won’t be able to call, text, or browse the internet while it’s active. As a bonus, it also helps conserve your phone’s battery, so you’ll be able to readily catch up on calls, texts, and e-mails when you’re safely off the road and parked.
- Putting your phone away: Keeping your phone out of sight and out of mind is an effective way to make sure you don’t even think about using it. Keep it stored in a backpack, purse, or even your glove compartment to further reduce the temptation to use it.
- Turn off notifications: Most smartphone apps include notifications that either make sound, vibrations, or light up a phone’s screen upon receiving a message. Turning off notifications for apps will help keep you focused and not thinking about your phone.
- Anti-distracted driving apps: As distracted driving has become a growing problem, app developers have created tools to prevent distracted driving. This includes locking phone capabilities while driving and tracking driver behavior.
Distracted driving due to smartphone use is a relatively recent phenomenon, but it has become one of the most common and, certainly, the most dangerous. Several states have either introduced or have passed legislation designed to eliminate texting and driving. For example, the Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill increasing maximum fines for texting while driving up to $500 per offense.
While government agencies work on tackling texting and driving, it’s also up to drivers to curb their smartphone habits behind the wheel and stay focused on the road — which could safe your or another driver’s life.