PHOTO: Photo Courtesy of flickr.com/Century 21 MM Northern California
We hate to scold, but we’re going to do it anyway: don’t text and drive. Don’t call and drive. Don’t do anything on your phone while driving. No Facebook, tweeting, Instagramming, snapchatting, Vining, Tindering…no nothing. Stay off your phone while you’re in your car, unless you’re pulled over with the engine turned off. As the Colorado State Patrol says, “Get your head out of your apps.”
This distracted driving campaign was launched recently in the wake of a two year period in which there were nearly 40,000 crashes from distracted driving in Colorado. The law there states that any driver under the age of 18 is prohibited from using a phone while driving, and all drivers are prohibited from “texting or entering any data into a phone” while driving. Further, the prohibition is in effect also while stopped at red lights.
Statistics on distracted driving are disconcerting. The average number of seconds a driver’s attention is diverted while texting is 4.6 seconds, or the length of a football field when the car is travelling at 55 miles an hour. According to textinganddrivingsafety.com, another Colorado-based organization, text messaging makes a crash up to 23 times more likely to occur. Merely reaching for your phone increases your chance of having an accident 1.4 times.
Only four states do not have an all-driver texting ban. Washington was the first to pass a ban in 2007. No state [yet] bans all cell phone use for all drivers. The Governors Highway Safety Administration (ghsa.org/html/issues/distraction), sponsor of the “It Can Wait,” campaign, maintains crash data and reports states’ regulations and funding – but remains unequivocal in its message: don’t use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving, regardless of the current law.
Few of us can forget Oprah Winfrey’s regular pleas to audiences and guests alike to take her “no phone zone” pledge. The 2010 statement reads, “I pledge to make my car a No Phone Zone. Beginning right now, I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by not texting or using my phone while I am driving. I will ask other drivers I know to do the same. I pledge to make a difference.” Winfrey also stated that texting is “equal to having four drinks and driving.”
Distraction.gov, the official government website on distracted driving, contains an updated pledge which can be downloaded and signed. Here the mantra is “One text or call could WRECK it all.” The home page includes a startling piece of data: in 2013, 3,154 people were killed in distracted driving crashes nationwide.
As cell phone use becomes increasingly ubiquitous, and with the advent of new devices such as the Apple Watch, and dare we even say it, Google Glass, some experts are concerned that drivers will be more and more likely to be distracted. An AT&T study recently revealed that 4 in 10 drivers use social media while driving. The future seems to point to more, not fewer, ways and opportunities to become distracted. We understand your gadgets are cool, your photos interesting, your lives impossibly fantastic and sharable – but, like the GHSA says, can’t it wait?
Unless you want your last status update to read “Crashing,” we think it should.