By Alex Perdikis
For many years, drunk driving was viewed as the paramount cause of unnecessary car crashes. There were advocacy groups such as SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) dedicated to preventing drunk driving, laws being made, and random police check sites.
That was then. Drunk driving is still a major problem, but there’s a new threat among us now: distracted driving. Today’s widespread use of mobile technology means that there is much more distracted driving happening than ever before. What’s more, it is believed that distracted drivers are actually as dangerous — or even more dangerous — than drivers who are under the influence of alcohol. Some studies say that texting while driving is eight times more dangerous than drinking and driving.
What “Distracted Driving” Means
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Changing the radio station, glancing down at something that fell onto the floor, letting your mind wander: any of these constitute distracted driving.
Using a phone and driving involves every aspect of distraction: using your hands, glancing away, and an unfocused mind. Texting and driving is the most dangerous activity of all, and the statistics are alarming. According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), approximately 660,000 American drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices at any given daylight moment.
From Brushing Teeth to Texting
Erie Insurance did a survey in 2015 which showed that drivers do many dangerous things behind the wheel including brushing their teeth and changing clothes. Moreover, Erie’s survey found that one-third of drivers admit to texting while driving. This is of course only the number of drivers who admitted to texting.
In 2009, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute said that five seconds is the average time a person’s eyes are off the road while texting, which when traveling at 55 miles per hour is enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. Five seconds may seem to be a very short amount of time, but combined with the speed of a car, it clearly covers a very large distance.
Advocates on the Forefront
There are a growing number of advocacy groups dedicated to focusing on distracted driving and how to keep the statistics from growing. Stop The Texts, Stop The Wrecks, a partnership of the NHTSA and the Ad Council, aims to “show drivers that no matter how safely they think they can engage in distracted driving, the behavior is always dangerous for every driver, all the time.”
The Distracted Driving Foundation wants mobile phone carriers and car manufacturers to put technology in phones and automobiles that block using a phone when drivers are moving. They believe that “for many, the temptation to read a text message or answer a call when it comes in is irresistible.” Texts should be blocked until the car is stopped and phone calls should be directed to a voice prompt informing the caller that the person is driving and to leave a message.
End Distracted Driving (EndDD) is a group that is sending people out into the workforce and to schools to give presentations and real life stories, much like MADD and SADD did in the past.
It is the hope of these groups that, as the dangers of distracted driving and its deadly consequences become better known, the number of distracted drivers will significantly decrease in the years to come.