Put the Phone Down!!!

While perusing the web via Flipboard, I ran across a rather poignant article about distracted driving, in particular, mobile phone distraction, with some terrifying statistics. This article really hit home as I not only share the road with dozens of distracted motorists every day as a driver, pedestrian and cyclist, but also have had the misfortune of being hit by a mobile phone wielding driver in the past.

I was one of the “lucky statistics” having only cuts an bruises from the assault…notice that I do not call it an accident, which is defined as “An unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.”…there is nothing unintentional or unexpected when a driver consciously chooses to focus their attention on a small screen instead of the road ahead. It is, instead, irresponsible, reckless and downright dangerous. A two ton hunk of steel moving at speed is an extremely dangerous weapon in the hands of a distracted driver.

Distracted driving killed more than 3,000 Americans in 2010! Three thousand sons, daughters, mothers and fathers dead because someone chose to groom, sing, eat or text instead of paying attention while driving. When texting, we take our eyes off the road for an average of five seconds at a time. And all the while, our cars keep moving. If you’re driving 55 mph, you travel the length of a football field during that five seconds. Braking to a stop from 55 requires about 360 feet. If something surprising happens in front of you, you’d better hope it’s a very long way ahead of you or you’re going to hit it. Last year 11% of all U.S. crashes were attributed to cell phone use. That’s 1.3 million accidents. One in four Americans text behind the wheel. And about six in ten talk on the phone. You’d think that these stats would be more than enough to break this dangerous habit. Don’t count on it.

In 2009, the Pew Research Center found that 40% of all American teens reported being in a car when the driver used a phone in a way that put people in danger. Today 77% of teens own phones, sending and receiving an average of 167 text messages a day. How many calls and texts happen while driving is unknown, but 13% of drivers aged 18 to 20 admit to texting or talking at the time of an accident. In 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board called for a ban on personal electronic devices while driving. Today, 39 out of 50 U.S. states have banned texting while driving. And driving and talking on a hand-held phone is outlawed in 10 states, yet I’m sure if you look out your window you’ll catch someone head down and texting behind the wheel,.

In full disclosure, I too have been guilty of accessing my phone while driving…fortunately not causing any incidents, but frankly, is it worth putting yourself and others at risk for a text message? How can a little string of words be more valuable than someones life? Sure technology is a wondrous thing, but the business of life ran very smoothly before the invention of smart phones and text messaging. Having to waiting a few minutes for a text message is not going to kill you…not waiting for it can.

This is why I have made the choice to place my phone on DND when driving. A call or text, no matter how important can wait the few minutes it takes me to reach my destination. If the drive is long, I can simply pull off the road for a few minutes and catch up. It’s a simple solution that saves lives. Don’t wait to become a statistic. Just put the phone down!

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