It's never okay to drive distracted.
In this video by AT&T's anti distracted driving campaign, It Can Wait, a driver has decided that he can ignore his cell phone if he's not carrying any passengers. He's already dropped his kids off, they're safe and sound with friends, and he's driving along familiar roads on a beautiful summer day. And that's the scene for the moment that ruins his life. You know it's coming, but it doesn't make the video's last second any easier to watch. It's a long video, but worth a look. See it here.
Some drivers think that they're somehow safer drivers than others. They make up rules that make them feel like they're following the law, i.e. only texting at stoplights (which is illegal by Washington's new distracted driving law, by the way.) Certainly, the father in the above-mentioned video thinks he's protecting (his) kids by not texting while driving with passengers. This is due to the phenomenon known as illusory superiority, which has been tied to chronic distracted drivers.
Compare that to these recent studies, cited on EndDD.org, an organization devoted to raising awareness about distracted driving. The organization was founded by the father of a young woman killed by a distracted driver.
“2014 Traffic Safety Culture Index,” AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2014 – An attitude of “Do as I say, not as I do” continues to persist among drivers. 85% of respondents stated that distracted drivers were a safety concern. While 78.6% say texting and e-mailing are a very serious threat and 84.4% say it is completely unacceptable, more than one-third read a text or e-mail while driving, with 27% admitting to typing one. Two-thirds say hand-held cell phone use is unacceptable, while two-thirds also say hands-free phone is acceptable. Nearly half (46.6%) who use speech-based in-vehicle systems do not believe they are distracting. Support for bans is as follows – Texting at 89.3%, hand-held mobile devices at 67.8% and bans of both hand-held and hands-free devices is 40.2%.
It's a serious problem. Here's an interesting study that shows how distractions affect us:
University of Iowa, Why talking on cell phones adversely affects driving performance, June 2017 – Researchers used computerized experiments that tracked eye movements while asking subjects to answer true or false questions to mimic having a cell phone conversation or even a conversation with a passenger. Doing so caused participants to take about twice as long to direct their eyes to a new object than those who were not asked to respond. This phenomenon is referred to as “attentional disengagement.” And, the more the brain was distracted the worse participants performance became, a “snowball effect.”
Inattention blinds us to what's ahead. The Unseen video demonstrates that in a real-life, emotional example. Just those few glances away from the road to his phone as it binged and dinged at him were enough to kill someone.
There is never a reason to drive distracted. When you drive, only drive. If it's addictive to you as it seems to be to the newest generation of drivers, take this advice from one of that generation who won our scholarship contest a few years back. Here are a few simple tips to incorporate into your driving habits, teach to your kids, and talk about with loved ones.
Put your phone out of arm's reach so you're not tempted to use it. Not the cupholder, like the father in the video.
If you're the passenger, talk to the driver and tell them you won't ride with them if they drive distracted.
Take the pledge to never drive distracted, and stick to it.