Of all the distractions while driving, texting is numero uno. It happens to be the one that’s raising the greatest rage among safety researchers, industry critics, auto companies and federal and state regulators. Texting is taking lives, and that is provoking national outrage which is resulting in new laws and safety campaigns nationwide.
I remember when Oprah Winfrey went to the emotional heart of the issue with the launch of her “No Phone Zone” campaign in 2010. None of her employees at Harpo were allowed to text while driving and were given contracts to sign that would hold them to it.
True, there are a mulititude of distractions in the car. Eating (driving with your knees while eating a Big Mac). Changing a CD or radio station is very distracting. Men complain that women applying makeup in the car is exceptionally distracting (come on, it’s not always just women). On the other hand, women complain that men shave while driving. GPS, talking on the phone, swinging at your kids while driving are just a few more distractions in the car.
But texting while driving has a particular power to distract because it’s an activity that has visual, manual and cognitive components. A triple threat! It requires drivers to look at something other than the road, do something other than handle the wheel and think about something other than driving the car. In other words, texting involves three categories that involve major driver distraction.
Another thing to consider, you have 3 seconds to respond as a driver in an emergency.
When you text, your eyes are off the road by 10 times that. And texting’s primary danger is that it is a visual distraction. You can’t drive without looking at the road regardless of how high or low the cognitive demand is (unless you’re Stevie Wonder).
Safety regulators and researchers say texting while driving is more of a concern than other in-car distractions. Texting is widespread, particularly among young drivers who lack experience. Texting is also more distracting than many other driver activities.
According to CTIA, The Wireless Association, people sent or received 5.9 billion text messages every day in 2010. Many of them from behind the wheel of a car. About one-eighth of all drivers reported texting while driving, according to a study on driver distraction conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
Some states are reacting by making texting illegal. As of June, 34 states had enacted texting bans for all drivers. An additional 7 states prohibit texting by new drivers.And, in a survey by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the majority of drivers who admitted texting were between 18 and 29. That means the biggest offenders were also less experienced drivers. My teenage daughter can text and not even look at the phone while she’s doing it. We’ll be having a conversation at the dinner table and she’ll be looking me right in the eyes while she’s texting someone. Her phone is under the table. She calls it multitasking. I call it grounded. It’s just rude. I don’t text and drive. Not because I’m smart enough to, I’m just not coordinated enough to. I have tried it and I could totally take out famillies so I don’t do it.
Until next week…don’t text and drive…or you could find yourself with a phone in one hand and a ticket in the other