Close your eyes and count to five. 1…2…3…4…5…now open your eyes just in time to see that child on a bike in front of your car, or that you have veered into oncoming traffic. It’s too late…you can’t stop in time. Can you even imagine the horror and loss that has just occurred in those 5 seconds? That is the average amount of time it takes a driver’s eyes off the road to send or receive a text – at 55 mph, a car could travel the length of a football field.
Be brutally honest with yourself. Have you ever texted while driving? Have you thought, “Nothing will happen…it’s just a quick second.” Have you caught yourself veering into another lane while taking your eyes off the road? Have you seen other drivers nearly cause an accident, only to see that the driver was on a cell phone?
Have you ever been driving while talking on the phone, and suddenly you pull up at your destination and realize that you don’t really even remember driving there? You were just sort of on auto pilot – but, actually, you were driving while distracted. Distracted driving can be any activity or state of mind that diverts one’s attention away from purely focusing on driving. Distracted driving endangers the driver, the passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians or bicyclists.
What are the distractions?
- Visual – takes your eyes off the road
- Manual – takes your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive – takes your minds off of driving and limits awareness
Because texting includes all three of these distractions, it is the most dangerous.
Other distractions can cause your focus to shift and lead to a wreck:
- Talking on a cell phone – even if it is hands free
- Talking with other passengers
- Interacting with children in the back seat
- Eating and drinking
- Grooming or applying makeup
- Reading – including maps or a GPS system
- Adjusting a radio/MP3 player/CD player
What are the statistics?
In 2014, over 400,000 people were injured and 3,179 were killed in the United States due to a distracted driving motor vehicle collision. Teens and drivers in their 20’s collectively make up more than 50% of the drivers who caused distracted driving collisions.
Those who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision. A driver’s reaction time while driving is doubled when they are texting, and sending or reading a text typically takes a driver’s eyes off the road for a minimum of 4.6 seconds. A lot can happen in that short period of time.
The days between Memorial Day and Labor Day have become known as the “100 deadliest days” for teen drivers on the road. Over 20% of teens have admitted to texting while driving at least once, although this number is almost certainly higher.
What can you do?
Take a personal pledge to never drive distracted. Absolutely avoid texting and talking on hand-held devices, but also avoid talking hands-free or engaging in intense conversations with passengers. Review maps or GPS prior to travel so that you know where you are going, and only use a GPS program that can talk to you and provide verbal directions. Avoid eating and drinking, applying makeup, reading, or anything else that takes your mind, eyes, or hands off the road. Driving is NOT the time to multi-task!
If you are a passenger, offer to help with answering the phone or using the GPS. If you notice the driver becoming distracted and possibly becoming unsafe, bring it to their attention.
Consider using an app that lets others who call or text you know that you are driving and will get back to them later. There are several good ones, including AT&T’s DriveMode app. Download the app at ItCanWait.com.
If you are a parent, talk seriously with your teens about the dangers of distracted driving. Visit the ItCanWait.com website to view educational videos and take the pledge to never drive distracted. Get your employer involved in a Distracted Driving prevention campaign to educate coworkers.
Kristen Hullum, MSN, RN, PCCN
Trauma Injury Prevention Coordinator
St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center