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Distracted Driving …. A Growing Epidemic
In keeping up with today’s fast paced lifestyle, people are increasingly trying to fit more and more activities into their day. Multitasking is the name of the game. So we find people with their hands full, doing too many things at the same time - eating while working on a report, sending emails while attending a meeting or talking on the phone while preparing dinner (and plotting world domination!). It is not a surprise, therefore, that people are also driving while doing another activity. Distracted driving, is in fact, becoming a dangerous epidemic on roadways across America.
What are the distractions while driving? Eating and drinking, talking to other passengers, grooming, adjusting the stereo or using the navigation system are some of the most common things that keep our attention away from the road ahead. However, by far, the most alarming distraction is text messaging. It’s because texting requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. Some research goes as far as to argue that drivers who use their smartphones while driving are as impaired as people who drive while drunk.
Let’s Look at Some Numbers
Consider this statistic - approximately 660,000 drivers attempt to use their phones while behind the wheel of an automobile at any given time throughout the day.
Here are some more alarming facts:
- Each year, almost 330,000 accidents are due to texting while driving
- One in every four car accidents in the US is caused by texting while driving
- Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. (This is an eye opener!)
- You might think that answering a text takes no time at all - just 5 short seconds. But those five seconds are enough time to travel the length of a football field if you’re travelling at 55 mph. Yikes!
All these point to the fact that of all cell phone related tasks, texting is the most dangerous one of all.
Same Strategy …. Different Menace
In the last seven years, most states have already banned texting while driving. There have also been numerous public service campaigns aimed at convincing people to put away their phones so they can concentrate on the road.
However, these measures are clearly proving to be inadequate in addressing the growing menace. The problem is, in fact, getting worse. Road fatalities, which have already fallen for many years now, are now on the rise again - up by approximately 8% in 2015 from the previous year.
Given the fact that texting while driving is proving to be more dangerous than drunk driving, legislators and public health experts are now looking at the same strategies that they have used in discouraging drunk driving back in the 80’s - campaigning for having designated drivers and petitioning social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to discourage multitasking by drivers.
In New York, lawmakers are looking into using a device very much similar to a Breathalyzer. This time, it would be called a Textalyzer - a roadside testing device that police officers could take to the scene of a crash. A police officer could ask for the phones of any of the drivers involved in the accident and use the digital device to access the phone operating system. This would check if the phones have been used to text or email or do anything that is in violation of the hands-free driving laws, which prohibits drivers from holding phones to their ears. Similar to a Breathalyzer test, a driver can have his license suspended if he fails to hand over his phone.
The proposed Textalyzer law is sure to still encounter opposition as there are privacy issues. However, developers of the technology assure that contents of the texts or emails cannot be accessed. It will just show evidence of whether a driver was multitasking on the phone while driving.
“We’re losing the battle against distracted driving”. This was the pronouncement by Jay Winsten, an associate dean and director of the Center for Health Communication at Harvard’s School of Public Health.
Perhaps the time is right for the Textalyzer. If the Textalyzer bill is passed into law, people are certainly going to think twice about putting their hands on their phones and using them while driving.
What do you think?