Can you do several things at once and do them well? The evidence from decades of study is a resounding NO. Driving while talking or texting is bad – we have the fatalities and serious injuries to prove it.
More than 5,000 deaths and more than 500,000 injuries, many life-altering, were caused by distracted drivers in 2018. We believe that number to be greatly under-reported. Hands-free capability in the vehicle doesn’t help much. It’s not the physical aspect but the cognitive engagement – thinking about what we’re going to say – that causes distraction. Tragedy happens fast. Many crash scenarios occur in 3 – 5 seconds.
When drivers are surveyed, about 80 percent agree that using smartphones while driving is a bad idea and yet most of them still do it. Why? Smartphones are addictive for many people, and everyone is convinced it won’t happen to them. It’s the same as driving under the influence and the results are exactly the same.
Technology got us into this, and it can get us out. Disable phones (except for 911 calls) while vehicles are in motion – that is easy to do but the phone companies need to make a commitment. NTSB has made recommendations to the manufacturers and CTIA (spell out) to allow only passenger use. We’re still waiting.
19 states and the District of Columbia have banned handheld phone use and texting but, as noted, that’s only a down payment on safety. If you cause a crash or are a victim – rest assured that your life, or a family member’s, will be irrevocably changed or ended. Is it worth it? Many commercial operators now prohibit their drivers from smartphone use when in motion. There are apps that allow drivers to disable their phones in motion – It’s a start.
To learn more about the issue of distraction in transportation visit https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/mwl/Pages/mwlfs-19-20/mwl1.aspx.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.