Eyes On The Road: The Dangers Of Texting and Driving.

Go on admit it… we’ve all done it!

Those of us with cell phones (which is just about everyone these days) have texted while driving at some point. If you have a cell phone and you drive a car, you most likely have done the two simultaneously. I have to admit that although I am now aware of the dangers of using my cellphone while driving, that certainly did not stop me from using it in times past. Being distracted while driving – even for a quick second can be tragic. Using cellphones may have helped many individuals in a sticky or dangerous situation. But we have to stop and think about when this form of communication could be the one causing an emergency situation. Texting and driving is increasingly becoming one of the most common distractions among drivers. With this, the number of fatal accidents that are caused by texting and driving is also on the rise. By choosing to text and drive we are putting our own lives in danger along with those we share the road with!

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The Truth Hurts:

Are you someone who still uses your cellphone while driving? Well, you aren’t the only one…CNET News reported that almost one-third of people polled do. Of the two thousand drivers that were surveyed this means “35% of them revealed that they do use their smartphones while driving” (Whitney, 2013). With that being said, the numbers would be a lot higher, but it’s more than likely that many people do not own up to their use while driving. If they are hiding the fact that they are doing something, then they know that it must be wrong, so they are consciously engaging in this dangerous cell-phone use while driving.

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Psychology Today, talks about the truth about texting/talking while driving is that “people do not turn off their connection to the outside world when they get into their cars” (Pastorino, 2012). We are a society that is obsessed with technology and always wanting to be connected no matter what cost this may be.

Realistically, our brains are “not capable of fully concentrating on two things simultaneously. Our brain has what is called a cognitive load— an amount of mental activity that it can engage in at one time” (Pastorino, 2012). To put this into perspective, think about a time when you are hanging out with a group of friends and everyone’s eyes are glued to their phones, have you ever tried to keep up an engaging conversation with someone who’s mind is elsewhere? If you are texting while driving, or picking up a phone call you leaving your brain with a substantially smaller cognitive load, limiting your focus on driving. Having years of driving experience may require less cognitive load however, for the younger generation who are the most likely to be using their phones while driving have less experience with driving. Conversely, elderly people who do in fact have more years of experienced driving under their belt run into a problem because they are not as familiar with new technology as the younger generations. When I think about watching my parents try to send text messages and how long it takes them to type it out I would hate to imagine people like them trying to do this while driving at the same time!

Kicking That Dangerous Habit To The Curb!

It is without question that texting and driving is very dangerous and is currently being disputed to be more dangerous than drinking and driving. Ask yourself: would you want to get in the car with someone who had been drinking…NO, then why would you want to get in the car with someone who will be paying attention to their phone and not the road? It’s the same thing!  You might not really think about it as the same, but drinking and driving impairs your vision along with impaired judgement, but when you look at texting and driving your eyes are not even on the road at all. Think about it, if someone asked you to close your eyes for 5-6 seconds would you do it? Probably not, but you are doing exactly that by taking your eyes off the road every time you check your phone to send or read a text message.

Experts suggest that this sudden turnaround in dangerous driving trends is dubbed the epidemic of distracted driving (Vaughan, 2012). Texting and driving is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. In fact, one study conducted by Car and Driver magazine covered this issue and showed that “texting while driving is more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol” (Vaughan, 2012). I would argue that for those of us who drive, on any given day, at any given time, will see other people on the road driving while texting or talking on their cellphones. “Ontario’s ban on hand-held devices while driving took effect on October, 2009”(Vaughan, 2012). If you use your cellphone while driving you could face a $155 fine. In taking one look out on the roads today we can clearly see that this fine is not having much of a deterrent affect on society. If we compare this fine to the penalties of impaired driving we see the “first offence means an immediate loss of license for three months and minimum fine of $1,150. The second offence gets a bigger find and 30 days in jail” (Vaughan, 2012). If texting and driving is just as dangerous as drinking while under the influence of alcohol don’t you think that the penalties should be a little harsher than they currently stand?

If you are still someone who texts while driving, quitting might be easier than you think. While many people are aware of the dangers that texting and driving poses, this still does not seem to be stopping them as it continues to be a problem, especially among younger drivers. In a 2012 survey conducted by AT&T on teen drivers they found that “74 percent of teens say texting while driving is common among their friends and the majority of respondents said they have texted when stopped at a right light and often glace at their phones while driving” (southeastsun, 2013). While the messages that you receive from family and friends could be important, nothing should override the importance of the safety of you inside your vehicle, along with those sharing the road with you.

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Texting and Driving Kills!

Real life examples, it DOES happen…unfortunately more often than we think!

NBC News.com reported on a Massachusetts teenager who was convicted of motor vehicle homicide by texting. Before imposing the sentence on the teen, the judge said he was “sending a message of deterrence” (Mach, 2012). He also addressed the growing concern in society that “people can violate these laws and there really isn’t much of a deterrence without examples like this” (Mach, 2012).

Taking it a little closer to home, thestar.com reported on a TTC bus driver caught texting while driving. An individual who is supposed to be responsible for driving a busload of people around was photographed texting while driving over 50 km/h. Not only is this illegal, but he was also jeopardizing the safety of each and every passenger and putter others on the road in danger. What sort of message is this sending out to society?

A Social Norm?

Texting has quickly become a social norm since cell phone plans these days almost always include a plan for text messaging. With the skyrocketing rates of smartphone purchases, this is also increasing the changes of usage. I am not here to argue that cell phones are not a great way to communicate with others while offering a high level of convenience but the dilemma arises when individuals are choosing convenience over safety.

Wheels.ca declares that it is time to put an end to the blasé attitude toward distracted driving. While many drivers will admit that they use their hand-held devices while driving, they are very few that will actually admit that this is an issue. Distractions while driving, such as the use of cellphones doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. For many motorists it seems as though their attention to operating their vehicles and keeping their eyes on the road is second in line. According to Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), “you are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision if you text while driving and four times more likely if you talk on a cellphone (hand-held or hands-free) while driving” (Romeo, 2012). This is interesting when you think that hands-free devices were invented for all intensive purposes such as driving, however, actually talking on the phone or texting and not focusing solely on driving is what seems to still be the problem here. With the new seatbelt laws introduced in the 1970s, this “met with some resistance before achieving widespread acceptance among drivers. In the 1980s, tougher drinking and driving laws met with resistance until that unlawful activity became a social taboo” (Romeo, 2012). We will continue to fight this uphill battle unless something is done about the culture that surrounds distracted driving changes being made, and society ultimately chooses to no longer accept it.

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Taking A Stand Against Texting and Driving! 

Thespec.com addresses how texting and driving is not a LOL matter. The Hamilton police traffic unit has created a Drive Wise Simulator as part of their campaign targeting distracted driving. There are no questions when it comes to the fact that “people are getting faster on their phones. We’re the generation of multi-tasking” (Grover, 2012). People think that it does not make a difference if they are fast at texting; this simulator demonstrates that every little bit does in fact count. As it currently stands, if you are caught texting and driving, the fine is $155 with no demerit points. While this fine may not mean a lot to many, perhaps having a law being passed that issues demerit points for those caught texting and driving will help curb this nasty and dangerous habit.

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Forbes.com looks at how two renowned cellphone carriers; AT&T and Verizon have “committed marketing dollars to build awareness for the problem” (Wilms, 2012). Even celebrities like Justin Bieber have created public service announcements hoping to curb texting while driving. These cellphone companies are creating a parental controlled, no-texting-while-driving smartphone which would allow apps to use the phone’s GPS cut off the keyboard when it tracks it moving beyond a certain speed. However, the problem that may arise out of this is that parents will have to know about the app, along with knowing how to download and install it all the while hoping that their children will not just simply shut it off.

Check out Glee’s PSA on distracted driving!

According to bizjornals.com,on average, “someone is killed or injured once every five minutes in an automobile crash that happens while a driver is texting and driving” (Bertola, 2013). AT&T’s It Can Wait program, is a “national movement tapping the power of social media and social networks to make texting and driving as unacceptable as drinking and driving” (Bertola, 2013).

Watch this short clip put out by AT&T to promote their “It Can Wait” program in hopes to not only change the behaviour of drivers, but also educate on the significant dangers behind texting and driving.

WARNING, this eye-opening video contains real scenes and stories of deadly accidents caused by texting and driving. This short documentary is titled “The Last Text,” which features families that were impacted by senseless texting and driving accidents

Visit  http://itcanwait.com/ and take the pledge to never text and drive and watch videos and other others who have shared their stories. Try out the texting and driving simulator here for yourself!

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Automotive-Fleet.com looks at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and have concluded that “on-the-job crashes cost employers more than $24,500 per crash, $150,000 per injury, and $3.6 million per fatality. And distracted driving caused by hand-held mobile device use is an emerging contributor to these accidents” (Lyden, 2011). There are a number of phone apps that can disable certain functions on a cellphone such as texting, automatically. These apps helping to curb cellphone use while driving include:“Sprint’s Drive First, FleetSafer Mobile, DriveSafe.ly, iZup, Textecution, Cellcontrol” (Lyden, 2011).

Criticisms of Enforcing a Ban:

The biggest argument out there for banning texting while driving is that it may become safe or helpful for people in certain circumstances. As an example, if someone is stopped dead in a traffic jam, they may be able to safely use their phone to text someone to let them know that they will be late and will have to reschedule. On the other side of the argument, it is important to look at the wording of these type of texting bans. Instead of enforcing a ban on things such as reading or writing, or anything that distracts someone from driving, the law itself would probably be banning sending an actual text message. However, with the voice recognition technology that is currently out there you are able to send and receive text message without having to even look or type on your phone at all.

Conclusion:

If you have a couple of minutes… visit TxtResponsibly.org to share your very own texting and driving story, or read others stories while they hope to raise awareness of the dangers associated with texting while driving.

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Will you continue to text and drive after reading this? We have all done it at one point, and we should be very thankful that we made it out alive and didn’t injure others on the road or ourselves. Within this technology-obsessed society, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep people from not taking part in this dangerous activity. Many of these individuals feel pressured to remain connected even while behind the wheel. What they might not realize are the serious dangers involved when their eyes are off the road and their hands are typing away on their phones, and focusing on everything but driving! To put all of this into perspective, costarica.com states that the average text message takes nearly five seconds to send, that means “when traveling at 55mph, that’s enough tie to cover the length of a football field” (Rico, 2012).

Take out your cell phone right now! Now…read the last message that someone sent you out loud. Would this text be worth responding to or even reading while driving, or worse, getting in an accident and injuring yourself or others? Chances are, that text can wait.

Ask yourself, how would you feel if a text you sent someone might be the last text they ever saw? Is staying connected really worth the risk?

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