Human beings secretly delight in doing something we know we shouldn’t. Talking on a cell phone while driving, sending voice-activated texts or programming a GPS while the car is in motion are prime examples. You may get away with it occasionally, but on an annual basis, over 4,000 Americans die and 276,000 are injured in distracted driving crashes. That’s not even counting 659,000 annual crashes resulting in property damage and millions of scary near-misses.
Luckily, my friend Isa was unhurt when a distracted driver blew through a stop sign and smashed up her car.
Miraculously, my friend Jacob survived when a distracted driver crashed into his van; though he will deal with the effects of a traumatic brain injury for the rest of his life.
Tragically, my friend Lee did not survive when she swerved to avoid a distracted driver who drifted into her lane, rolling her SUV. She died before the ambulance arrived.
People know they aren’t paying full attention to driving if they are using a phone or other technology at the same time, so why do they do it? Simply, our society values productivity. We think of time behind the wheel as wasted. A Distracted Driving Awareness Month survey found that people are currently more willing to wear masks than to put down their phone while driving. Making calls or sending texts from the car makes us feel we are multitasking. Plus we believe that technology built into a vehicle must be safe or it wouldn’t be there – so what’s the harm?
The new NSC report Understanding Driver Distraction explains the science behind the danger, showing that visual and manual distraction are serious, but cognitive distraction – taking your mind off the road – is the most dangerous of all. Many drivers will be shocked to learn that hands-free technology use may only be marginally safer than using a handheld phone. Hands-free features are built into the car, not because they are safe to use, but because car buyers want them.
All these issues are explored in the report, and the conclusions and recommendations are clear. There is no safe level of distracted driving. Drivers need to take the primary responsibility for their behavior by using their cell phones and programming their electronics only while their vehicle is safely parked. Take the Just Drive pledge today to drive distraction-free.
Employers should enact Safe Driving Policies so workers aren’t pressured to use phones and technology while driving. State and federal legislators should continue the good work of banning cell phone use while driving. And vehicle manufacturers should make safety the first concern when embedding technology into their products.
Find out the details in the free report Understanding Driver Distraction.
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