Why Texting and Driving is Scarier than Driving Under the Influence
Most people are aware of the dangers of driving while intoxicated, but what about driving while intexticated?
Intextication, says California Highway Patrol officer Brian Pennings, occurs when someone becomes disengaged with his or her surroundings because he or she is too mentally occupied with a cell phone.
While intextication can cause people to make mistakes at home or at work, its most serious cases generally occur while driving. According to Pennings, drivers who are texting are twice as likely to crash as those driving under the influence of alcohol.
“Drivers who are texting are TWICE as likely to crash as those driving under the influence of alcohol”
As part of the Impact Teen Drivers program, Pennings gives presentations at high schools to raise awareness among teens about their own risky behaviors.
Although Pennings stresses the importance of other teen driver safety programs, he believes presentations about texting and talking while driving are more relevant than ones that deal with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
According to his research, fewer teens drink or take drugs before driving than text or talk while driving.
Risks With Teen Drivers
“The power in the program is that this affects every single one of them,” Pennings says. The presentations include teaching teens how hazardous texting while driving is by testing their own abilities to drive while texting.
Pennings sets up obstacle courses of cones on school property so that “self-proclaimed professional texters” can test how well they really drive while texting. Students are told to navigate around cones while answering texts that ask questions such as, “what are the middle names of your siblings” and “name all of the schools you’ve attended”.
“You should see the cones fly,” Pennings remarks, noting that although the questions may seem simple enough, they require too much thought to allow the teen drivers to focus enough attention on their driving.
“Distracted driving is a factor in 90% of collisions”
Pennings says teens and adults alike often blame others on the road for distracted driving, believing themselves to be the only ones able to multitask behind the wheel. “I basically tell them, ‘you guys suck when you drive; it’s not just everybody else, it’s you, too.”
Distracted driving is a factor in 90% of collisions, says Pennings, and most of those incidents involve cell phones. Texting is twice as dangerous as talking on the phone or to the passengers while driving, yet Pennings identifies talking and driving as a critical problem as well.
“When you’re actively engaged in conversation, driving goes to the back burner of your brain,” Pennings says.
According to Pennings, some studies show that drivers see as little as 50% of what appears in front of them if they are engaged in a conversation. “This isn’t a new problem, it’s an old problem, because talking on the phone is no different than talking to a passenger,” says Pennings. “Even before cell phones, we had this problem.”
Drivers can safely glance away from the road while operating a motor vehicle for 2 seconds. However, drivers who text take their eyes off the road to send a message for an average of 5 seconds. *
One way of eliminating driving distractions is to install a no-texting app onto cell phones. Several available apps automatically send calls to voicemail and silence texts when inside a moving vehicle. Some apps also send automated messages to callers saying, “Sorry, I can’t take your call right now. I’m driving.”
Others allow parents to remotely cut teens’ cell phone service while they are driving. Many of these apps can be found in the App Store or the Google Play market, and some service providers including AT&T and Sprint offer anti texting apps to customers when purchasing a new phone.
While Pennings recommends these apps, he thinks they will be slow to catch on and adds that state and local governments likely cannot mandate use of such apps due to complaints that such legislation violates personal freedom.
“The reason it’s so important to be mentally engaged when you’re driving is because (driving) is multitasking. You have to do more than one thing at once,” Pennings says. “It comes down to an adult decision, and you have to make a conscientious decision”.
*Quote Source: Erin Schumaker, The Huffington Post, July 2015
Article First Appeared in Pekin Insurance Newsletter, Source: Professional Safety, September 2013
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