Texting And Driving: The Extent Of The Problem

text while driving

We all know that using a mobile or texting while driving is downright dangerous. And yet the statistics and indeed the evidence of our own eyes tells us that far too many people are ignoring the warnings and are flouting the law every day. Why is that and what can we do about it?

Worldwide the number of people caught using mobiles while driving has now outnumbered those caught drink driving. One study conducted in the US suggests that drivers use their phones on roughly 88 per cent of all journeys. In addition, it’s estimated that drivers who are texting are 20 times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers.

It’s clear that texting while driving is a big problem. Using mobile phones causes drivers to take their eyes off the road, their hands off the steering wheel, and their minds off the task in hand and the surrounding situation. It’s a recipe for disaster often with tragic and totally avoidable consequences.

We all know this to be the case. The highly visible and emotive messages from repeated safety campaigns are getting through, the real problem is that people are choosing to ignore them.

Reasons For Complacency

So, why are we persisting in such risky behaviour? The simple truth is that most people are not convinced that it’s all that dangerous. You see, in life we use our experiences and common sense to guide our choices. The first time what seems to be an urgent text or important call comes through while we are driving, we give it a shot and see how it goes. We pick up the phone and allow ourselves to be distracted, but only for a fraction of a moment. And guess what? We get away with it and so we chance it again the next time and the next time. After all, we say to ourselves, I’m an experienced driver. I can keep an eye on the road and quickly deal with this text.

Sadly, the truth is if we persist in this delusion our luck will run out at some point. There are plenty of sad stories of loved ones who have died or have suffered horrific injuries because they texted while driving.

Ways To Bring About Change

So, what can we do to change people’s thinking?

Some countries have gone down the route of introducing tough laws on mobile use while driving. In France, for example, drivers wanting to use a mobile in their cars must first park in a designated parking spot and turn the engine off.

And a change in emphasis is probably needed when it comes to safety campaigns. For example, rather than focusing on crash statistics, it might be more powerful to stress facts like this one: drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6. Or the fact that it can take our brains a full half a minute to reorient on the road after checking our phone screens. These kinds of facts put into sharp focus what it means to be distracted by your mobile.

Perhaps the greatest weapon though in the fight to stop texting while driving is peer pressure. After all, drink driving was once relatively commonplace but a programme of education and shifting societal attitudes has changed that. Maybe it’s time we did the same for texting while driving as well.

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