Thanks to our marvelous new world of hand-held electronic devices like a Blackberry or cell phone, we can escape the painful boredom of self-awareness from wherever we sit, stand walk or ride. If it’s still too lonely in the wireless ocean of the Intenet, we can always reach out and touch someone-anyone we choose, by voice or text, sight or sound.
Driver distractions have always been the major cause of road accidents. Thanks to the world of the hand-held, our sources of distraction have metastasized, stealing our attention endlessly and dangerously.
A new poll by the AAA Foundation of Traffic safety showed that almost 90% of Americans regarded texting or talking while driving as a “very serious” safety hazard.” Yet we do it anyway with one out of five drivers admitting it, half of them between the ages of 16 to 24.
It’s not surprising that we have no definitive figures on how many people are killed or injured each year because a driver was talking or texting on the phone. Law enforcement records are certainly understated because they rely mostly on self-reporting, and drivers are not likely to admit to texting or talking prior to an accident.
The most effective answer to this problem is obviously to pass and enforce anti-texting/talking legislation, (which has already been done in a dozen states, including California). This is the most effective way to ensure that the millions of people who know better will be less likely to talk or text while driving. Four U.S. Senators introduced legislation this week that would withhold 10%-25% of federal highway funds from states that refuse to prohibit text messaging by drivers of motor vehicles, trucks and mass-transit buses and light rail (recall the recent fatal rail crash in Los Angeles). 36 states have no such laws at present.
A Virginia Tech study showed that truckers or drivers even reaching for a device have six times the risk of ending up in a collision. Truckers increase the chance of an accident 23 times while texting. Less than 3-5 seconds attention to your hand-held can result in an accident. When you’re yakking on the phone you achieve the risk rate of a drunken driver.
It’s simple math. Going 30 miles an hour, you travel 44 feet in one second.