Distracted Driving – Startling Facts and Solutions that May Save Your Life
As local children and teenagers return to school, it is even more important to be alert as we drive around the streets of the Stamford and Bridgeport areas and on the surrounding highways. Too often, we believe that the term “Distracted Driver” doesn’t apply to us and that the statistics are inflated or simply refer to teenagers who are obsessed with their cell phones. Unfortunately, these just aren’t true. As you will see from the following statistics, “distracted driving” is a term that doesn’t only apply to teenagers (most of us are guilty of it in some way or another) and the statistics are far from inflated.
3.3 million people in the United States have cell phones on them. At least 27% of crashes in 2016 involved drivers with cell phones. Of the 6.8 million automobile crashes in 2016, more than 2.3 million were due to a driver talking on a cell phone and at least 160,000 of those accidents came from texting drivers. Drivers using a cell phone are 29 times more likely to get in a wreck. According to the National Safety Council, the number of lives lost on U.S. Roadways each year is equivalent to a 130-passenger jet crashing every day of the year. The NHTSA says that nearly 18% of deaths on U.S. Roadways each year involved distracted drivers. In addition, 53% of kids have been in the vehicle while the driver was texting, and approximately 1800 children are killed each year because of texting and driving.
When looking specifically at texting as the cause of the distraction, more than 87 percent of distracted drivers are distracted from texting. It is estimated that 2 out of 5 accidents in the U.S. are caused by texting. There are more than 521,000 accidents each year that result in serious injuries are which are caused by texting drivers. Texting while driving is 8 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving is. Drivers who are texting while driving have slower reaction times than drivers impaired at .08 blood alcohol level. This is a very scary realization, especially since so many more people are eligible to text while driving than to drink and drive.
Studies show that it takes about a minimum of three seconds to think about a text message. But, when you read a text message while driving, it distracts you for a minimum of five seconds every time you read. In addition, the average speed of a vehicle in the U.S. is 55 miles per hour. So, if you take your eyes off the road for even five seconds, your vehicle will travel the entire length of a football field without you ever looking at the road ahead. The time you keep your eyes off the road while texting increases by 400 percent. Your chance of accident increases by 23 times when you’re texting (this is true even if the accident is someone else’s fault). Your brain activity is reduced by more than 37% when simply talking while driving. And, it is important to note that you miss seeing up to 59% of your driving environment while you talk as well.
Teens & Distracted Driving – Startling Facts
It unfortunate and tragic that the largest group of drivers affected by distracted driving accidents and fatalities are teens. Here are some startling facts about how this epidemic is affecting teenagers across the U.S. 15 teens die every day due to texting while driving. 28 percent of teens involved in fatal accidents in the US were using a phone at the time. Teens have a 400 percent higher chance of being in an accident due to texting. The recent University of Utah study found that the reaction time for a teen using a phone is the same as that of a 70 year-old not using a cell phone.
82 percent of teens own a cellphone and use it regularly. 62 percent of teens talk while driving, 40 percent text while driving. 79 percent of adults and 72 percent of teens know they can text and drive easily. 38 percent of teens will respond to at least one text while driving. 15 percent of adults and 32 percent of teens admit to having entire text conversations while driving.
94 percent of teens know the consequences, but 48 percent still text and drive. While an overwhelming 97% of teens admit that texting while driving is dangerous, nearly 51% admitted to doing it. Yet, 90% of surveyed teens said they would stop texting while driving if a friend told them to and 93% would stop if a parent put their foot down.
Most of us would admit that distracted driving is probably the biggest single problem facing American drivers today. With our phones constantly by our sides and in our hands, our devices never turned off, and the feeling that we have less and less time to complete even necessary tasks, we are often faced with thoughts that we have no alternative than to drive distracted.
Without a doubt it is a nationwide, even global epidemic, that we will have to work together to eradicate. But how do we accomplish this seemingly impossible task? Unfortunately, when many people read statistics like these, they get overwhelmed and they simply throw up their hands and say, “There’s nothing I can do.” or “I won’t be able to make a difference.” Both of these couldn’t be farther from the truth. These statistics don’t have to continue to be reality.
Armed with the knowledge gained from these alarming statistics, Wocl Leydon wants to be part of the solution and to help you be part of the solution too. Below is a list of 6 specific solutions with a brief explanation of why they could help end today’s distracted driving epidemic.
MORE WIDESPREAD AND HARSHER LEGISLATION FOR ALL OFFENDERS
Right now there are laws in most states against texting while driving, and while this is a positive step in the right direction, we still have a-ways to go if we want to make them effective. Many states still permit talking on the phone while driving, and often texting or other phone use laws are only minor offenses, this means that police officers are only really able to add them on after pulling someone over for something else. If we really want to stop distracted driving, we need to tackle the problem in the courts first.
INCREASED AWARENESS REGARDING ALL FORMS OF DISTRACTED DRIVING – DEFINING/EXPLAINING DISTRACTED DRIVING – KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Most people are aware of the dangers of using a cell phone while driving, but these aren’t the only forms of “distracted driving”. Distracted driving is defined as “anything that takes your hands, eyes, or mind off of the road”. So whether it is eating a sandwich, doing your makeup or even talking to a friend in the car, you can be considered “distracted”. It is important that we educate all drivers on all forms of distractions as well as their effects on driving and accidents.
IMPROVE EDUCATION FROM AN EARLY AGE
Since technology has developed quicker than most of us can keep up with, there has been no real precedent set for the type of education that new drivers should receive regarding distracted driving and all that entails. For example, there are many people on the road who learned to drive before cellphones were even invented. So today, more than ever, an education is an essential element in reducing distracted driving. It is also important that we start by requiring every school-aged child to learn about it, specifically teenagers before they get their license. It is equally important to educate those who have had their licenses for many years (but that may be new to today’s latest technology).
REMINDERS – BUILD REMINDERS IN OUR CARS AND MAKE REMINDERS FOR OURSELVES
Most drivers have the best intentions, but many of us are literally “addicted” to checking our phones, it can sometimes be easy to “forget” NOT to check/answer your phone while you are driving somewhere familiar/not familiar with (which is often more likely the case). Often, all it would take is a simple “reminder” like a permanent sticky note/something similar that is always visible reminding you to just “turn off your cell phone or to put it away out of reach”, and a lot fewer accidents would occur.
BETTER INCENTIVES TO NOT DO IT – POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT – CHANGING THE BEHAVIOR
We have all been told that positive reinforcement is often the best way to change bad behavior. This could be true of distracted driving. The possibility of developing and using an app that rewards a driver every time they put their phone into “driving mode” by giving them points towards prizes of their choice. Or using other positive reinforcement tools.
TELL THEM TO – “IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME”
People will stop texting and driving if you (someone they respect, a peer or a person in a position of authority – like a parent) tell them to. It is amazing that the simplest and by far the cheapest solution to end distracted driving accidents, and it is the one we use the least.
There are no simple or perfect solutions. And unfortunately, distracted driving is not going away anytime soon. But with education, proactive and positive action and a united effort, working together we can create safer roads for all of us and generations to come.
Wocl Leydon would like to ask you to please remember this information the next time you are tempted to pick-up your phone while you’re driving (or to call/text someone when you know is driving). Your life, the lives of your passengers and the lives of other drivers is too valuable. The call or the text can wait.