Why Texting and Driving is the Ultimate Road Hazard
On the roads today, potential distractions abound. Whether we are changing the radio station, eating on the go, or breaking up a sibling dispute in the backseat, it can be easy to take some of our attention off the road. In fact, since the beginning of the driving era, vehicle operators have been learning how to manage distractions while behind the wheel.
However, today’s drivers face a modern enemy that previous generations never had to encounter: those who text and drive. Not only are these smartphone-distracted drivers a danger to themselves and their passengers, they also pose a threat to everyone else on the road.
While most states have passed laws banning cell phone use while driving, this doesn’t seem to be enough to deter the practice. And with more and more people losing their lives to something as needless as texting and driving, it leaves many wondering what else can be done.
Is Texting and Driving Really So Dangerous?
We’ve all seen drivers cruising down the road buried in their smartphones, many of them swerving out of their lane or nearly rear-ending other drivers. But is it really that safe to sneak a quick text message response, or check your inbox for a few seconds?
According to other drivers, absolutely. In fact, a recent study found that nearly 88% of drivers are more afraid of distracted drivers (such as those using their cell phones behind the wheel) than they are of drunk drivers. Using a smartphone behind the wheel, then, is currently perceived to be the more dangerous hazard on the roadways today.
It’s no wonder, either. Consider that the average text message takes around 5 seconds to type out and send; while this doesn’t seem like much time at all, if you are going 55MPH, that means you’ll blindly travel over 400 feet!
The statistics would also indicate that checking a phone while driving is incredibly dangerous… and the results aren’t very pretty.
Distracted Driving Statistics
In 2017, there were 3,166 people killed on U.S. roadways in distraction-affected accidents. These are accidents that can be directly attributed to distracted driving. Of those, at least 434 of the deaths involved cell phone use.
Of course, since texting and checking email is sometimes difficult distractions to track (especially when compared to something measurable, like drunk driving), this number is likely to be much higher.
It’s Not Just Other Cars, Though
In addition to the fatalities and injuries attributed to distractions — such as deaths from texting and driving — you also have the stats of those who weren’t even riding in vehicles.
According to the NHTSA, there were 599 non-occupant fatalities in 2017, caused by drivers who were simply distracted. This means joggers, pedestrians, bicyclists, etc. who were hit and killed because a driver was behind the wheel but not paying attention.
Is Texting and Driving Worse than Drinking and Driving?
So, just how dangerous is this modern issue of texting and driving, when compared to the decades-old hazard of drinking and driving? Turns out, smartphone use behind the wheel is actually much, much worse.
Of course, many drivers believe that they are the exception, and that they are able to safely check their phone or send a quick text without becoming a danger to themselves, their passengers, and the cars around them. An interesting experiment by Car and Driver Magazine, though, would beg to differ.
…How Bad is It?
Interested in putting some numbers behind this idea, C&D conducted an experiment with a couple test subjects. The intent was to see just how big of an impact cell phone use has on a driver’s attention, especially when compared to drunk driving.
They put drivers behind the wheel of a data-gathering car. Rigged with a red light — signaling to the driver to begin braking — this car would calculate just how long it took them to respond and begin efforts to stop the vehicle.
After gathering baseline numbers to see how quickly the drivers responded without any distractions, they repeated the test while having the drivers read a text, then again while typing out a text. Finally, they got the drivers drunk (BAC measuring at least 0.08 percent) and had them drive one last time.
The results were shocking. The drivers’ drunken results were surprisingly very close to their baseline reaction times. However, once a cell phone was introduced, the amount of time before hitting the brakes increased substantially. In one driver’s case, he traveled an additional 4 feet before reacting while drunk, but an extra 70 feet while texting!
Seventy feet is about the length of two full-size school buses, if you’re wondering. That distance could easily mean the difference between a crash and safely stopping in time.
Even if you think you are the exception to the rule and can safely drive while texting, the studies would say you’re wrong. Humans simply can’t give their full attention to two tasks at once, and when you are behind the wheel of a two-ton metal machine, mere seconds can be the difference between life and death.
Hundreds of lives are lost each year due to texting behind the wheel, along with countless injuries, all caused by people who believed that they could safely text and drive. Rather than risk becoming the next statistic — or wrecking countless lives — put your phone away while driving. No message is worth a life.