Don't Pick Up the Pho- LOOK OUT!
By Ethan Gantenbein
While it can be efficient for some people who are always in a rush, phone use while driving is dangerous. It takes your mind off of driving, doesn’t keep your eyes on the road, and makes you much more likely to get into a wreck.
First of all, you should not use a cell phone and drive because it takes your eyes off of the road. According to researchers at Oregon State University, taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds makes it 24 times more likely that you will get into an accident. Texting while driving leads to a 400 percent increase of the driver's eyes off of the road. Each time a driver takes their focus off the road they are putting their life and the lives of others in danger. Research has found that texting causes drivers to take their eyes off of the road for 4.6 seconds over a six second interval. So, if a texting driver was going 55 miles per hour, they would actually travel the length of a football field without looking at the road. They might as well be driving with a blindfold on.
While texting a message, a person has to focus on what they are typing, not only taking their eyes off the road but their hands off the wheel as well. The coordination it takes to type these messages forces you to keep your mind off of driving. That is exactly what you don’t want to do on the road. People who text while they are driving spend about 10 percent of the time driving outside of the car lane that they should be driving in.
One of the first laws against cell phone use and driving was made for the obvious reason that a motorist should keep their hands on the steering wheel while driving. Taking your hands off the wheel to text is a scenario that has caused a lot of car accidents. It is illegal to text while driving, but that does not seem to stop people from doing it. Texting while driving is one of the fastest growing causes of traffic accidents in the United States. This has resulted in thousands of additional road fatalities due to distracted driving. These are accidents that could have been prevented.
When you are texting, you are thinking about something else besides driving. This makes driving safely impossible because your brain can only focus on one task at a time. Trying to multi-task while driving is hazardous. It is unsafe because if your conscious mind wanders off while trying to answer a text, your subconscious takes over the steering wheel. An emergency situation could jar you back into full awareness, but the reaction time and sense of perception will suffer when you’re not paying full attention to your driving. Your brain sorts through all kinds of thoughts and only allows the most important ones to become aware. For example, people do not notice what is in their peripheral vision except if something moves there.
Even though using a mobile device and driving is very dangerous, not all of the states have made it a law that it is illegal. There are 43 states, plus Washington D.C., that prohibit texting while driving. According to AT&T's Teen Driver Survey, 97% of teens agree that texting while driving is dangerous, yet 43% do it anyway. Also, 19% of drivers of all ages admit to surfing the web while driving.
A report published by the National Transportation Safety Board says that it “is totally fine” and “not that big of a deal” to use a mobile device and drive if you have at least half of your attention on the road. Also, NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said that this does not only apply to texting, but to calls, games, and even surfing the web.
However, distracted driving is more dangerous than drunk driving, and is now the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. That means that eleven teens every day die from texting and driving. Also, 13 percent of drivers age 18 - 20 involved in car accidents confessed to texting or talking on their mobile device at the time of the crash. According to David Strayer, a researcher at the University of Utah, just talking on a cell phone multiplies your risk of getting into an accident by four, about the same as if you were driving under the influence of alcohol. That risk actually doubles again by eight times if you are texting while driving.
In fact, studies show that 97.5 percent of people cannot drive safely while using cell phones. Texting takes a driver’s hands, eyes and mind off of driving safely. Under no circumstances should texting and driving be acceptable. An example of this is the story of a High School teacher in Dalton, Georgia who was heading from home to the High School. She was texting and driving on a straight area of the highway, right when an 18-wheeler was coming off the breakdown lane back onto the highway and she hit his flatbed trailer. She never even knew what hit her, never even hit her brakes. Unfortunately she died in the accident. It’s stories like this one that should make people stop and think about what they are doing before they make the decision to text and drive.
There is a lot of pressure in today’s society to read or answer a text message immediately. A study has shown that 9 out of 10 teens expect a reply to a text within 5 minutes. I think there should be an App that can be downloaded that sends a text message reply that says, “Sorry I’m driving, I will get back to you later.” That might take some of the worry off of people who feel the need to respond to a text right away.According to my own observations, many people do not seem to take texting and driving seriously. Almost every day, I see people on the roads in San Luis Obispo that are texting while they are driving. This makes me feel upset that they are putting the life of me, them, and other people in danger. I hope that someday soon they realize what they are doing is wrong, and stop being unsafe drivers.