Most Americans drive everyday as a necessity. Perhaps that’s why we forget just how dangerous driving is. But thousands of people are killed every year in traffic fatalities and many more are wounded in car crashes.
Public awareness campaigns and laws educate the public about the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. PSAs advertise the “Click It or Ticket” laws and encourage everyone to buckle up for safety. Now, we need to apply our advocacy to fighting the newest threat to safe roads: distracted driving.
Distracted driving describes any activity that pulls a driver’s attention away from the task at hand: safely driving their car. Distracted driving includes reading maps, grooming, talking on the phone or to other passengers, using a navigation system and eating or drinking. Any and all of these activities can cause a driver to make a mistake, but none are considered the number 1 form of distracted driving.
The most dangerous form of distracted driving is texting. Texting demands our eyes, our hands and our cognitive skills. Sending a text while driving is reckless. It’s also incredibly common, especially in teens.
A recent study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health found that among teens, 25 percent reported responding to a text message at least once every time they drive, and 20 percent admitted to holding multi-message conversations.
While texting, you typically avert your eyes from the road for at least five seconds. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, in five seconds you’ve gone the length of a football field. While texting, you triple your risk of being in an accident.
In 2012, 3,328 people died in distracted driving crashes. More than 420,000 people were injured that same year in distracted driving crashes. Teens (and their parents) need to be aware of the dangers of texting and driving. Texting endangers not just our safety but the safety of others.
The US Department of Transportation created the website Distraction.gov to educate and combat distracted driving, including texting. The site is full of tragic, sobering statistics. It’s also a resource for parents and educators. Talk to your teen drivers – they need to know that texting and driving is never okay. The website encourages families to take the pledge not to text and drive together. Texting while driving isn’t just a teenage habit – parents are guilty of it, too.
Many of us would never, ever drive drunk. Texting can be just as dangerous. It’s time we all start fighting distracted driving, including texting, with the same zeal we apply to drunk driving. A text is never worth a life.