While sitting at a red light, have you ever taken a moment to look around and see what other drivers are doing? I have and was shocked to realize how many of us are talking or texting on a smart device while behind the wheel of a running vehicle! Americans are married to smart devices, make no mistake. For most, it is an essential part of our daily existence. However, our obsession with our smart phones while driving down the road is a serious distraction with the potential to harm or kill.
Why? Because texting while driving is a many layered distraction. It distracts three ways:
- Visual; eyes are taken off the road
- Manual; hands are taken off the wheel
- Cognitive; focus is engaged elsewhere, away from the task at hand DRIVING
To combat this growing distraction, some states are taking significant steps to minimize the incidents of texting and driving in their states. Be warned: if you text and drive you should be prepared to pay heavy fines, have your license suspended, increase your insurance rates and in some states, serve a little jail time. Still, it’s better than the alternative; you or someone else could be injured and possibly die.
US Texting and Driving Laws
In the United States, texting is banned for all drivers in 47 states plus the District of Columbia. Enforcement of the law varies from state to state. If the texting law is considered a primary law, someone can be pulled over for texting alone. If the law is a secondary law, a citizen can only be penalized for texting if caught while breaking a primary traffic law like speeding or not wearing a seat belt.
In Ohio, texting laws are secondary laws. However, in some cities like Norwalk, OH, stricter laws have recently come into effect making the texting law a primary “no electronics while driving law.” This means that drivers 18 can be pulled over at any time for a violation. It is only a matter of time before the rest of the country implements stricter laws. In fact, the state of New York is close to implementing a device called the Textalyzer to measure mobile devices usage to crack down on distracted drivers. Why is there such a push to pass stricter texting and driving laws? To prevent injury and fatality from unnecessary driver distraction.
Distracted driving is one of the major causes of vehicular accidents resulting in serious injury and even death. According to the CDC, distracted driving is responsible for 9 deaths and 1,000 injuries every day in the United States. Texting and driving takes distraction to a new level.
Approximately 87 to 92% of the time, people texting and driving are sending messages to family members or close friends. Below is sample of the most common text messages sent before a fatal car crash:
- Running late
- Send me the address
- Coming home
- Stuck in traffic
This means when you engage in texting and driving you are endangering people’s lives simply to tell loved ones where you are and/or when you’ll be home. Not only is it against the law, but are the texts really that important that it could not have waited?
Break the Habit
Do not text and drive. It sounds simple but when most of us hear the ding/chime/ringtone that a new text has just arrived, the urge to pick up the device and read the message is undeniable. Respond to the new text and before you know it, you are no longer looking at the road, have both hands on the wheel or are paying attention to the task at hand (i.e. driving)!
Just like any bad habit, the urge to text can be conquered. For parents, it starts with leading by example. Try these techniques to stop texting while behind the wheel:
- Set up hands free driving, if the vehicle has Bluetooth technology
- Accept the “DO NOT DISTURB WHILE DRIVING” setting if you have an iPhone
- Use a safe driving app (e.g. LifeSaver, AT&T DriveMode)
- Pull over and put the vehicle in park; this will help remind you that it can wait since this will delay destination arrivals
Texting and driving poses an increased danger to everyone on the road, not just the person sending the text or choosing a cutesy emoji. What is considered to “just take a second” could mean the last second of your life or someone else’s life. Bottom line, it’s not worth it. It CAN wait.
Timothy Dimoff – Speaker, National Expert, Author
Tim Dimoff’s engaging and thought-provoking presentations are sure to enlighten, inform and move you into taking action on such critical issues as workplace risks, substance abuse, security and societal threats. Feel free to contact Tim today to speak at your organization.