Sometimes it seems like we are attached to our cellphones. We carry them constantly, and for many of us, they are the last thing we see before bed and the first thing we look at when we wake up in the morning. They are a constant stream of information, emails, internet access, social media, videos and communication with loved ones through sharing photos, conversations and text messages.
As helpful as our phones are, though, there is a huge downside to constant connectivity: distracted driving.
We have grown to crave the connection and communication so much that we forego focusing our attention on other, much more important actions – including driving – in order to send and receive text messages and emails. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that an average of more than 3,000 people are killed and an additional 424,000 are hurt in distracted driving-related car crashes each year.
Texting = essentially driving blind
Myriad surveys and research studies have proven how very dangerous distracted driving, particularly texting while behind the wheel, can be. A landmark study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that sending or receiving a text message takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds.
That may not seem like a long time, but at highway speeds (55 miles per hour), a vehicle can travel the length of a football field in those few seconds. If the driver’s gaze is locked on his or her phone, the car is essentially on “auto-pilot” during that time, and much more vulnerable to a crash if, for example:
- Traffic stops in response to a red light or accident
- A pedestrian or bicyclist enters the roadway
- The vehicle hits a hazard like a pothole or debris in the roadway that could have been avoided if the driver had been paying attention
- Someone lawfully merges or changes lanes in front of the vehicle
No matter how important a text or email may seem at the time, it is never worth injuring or killing another person. Maybe if everyone would think about that before they pick up their phone behind the wheel, thousands of lives – and hundreds of thousands of injuries – could be prevented.