Having a cell phone in today’s society has become a regular part of life. Even I have a cell phone and I’m really not a big talker. What’s astonishing to me is kids seem to all have cell phones by the time they get into middle school. We rely on these communication devices for every aspect of our daily lives, whether for personal use or for work. To me we rely so heavily on the cell phone that it is becoming dangerous. Think to a time when you were driving down the road and came up on a slower vehicle.
They were swerving within their lane, couldn’t keep a constant speed and just seemed like they were completely distracted and not paying attention to the road and the seemingly easy task of driving. You want to get by the person but every time an opportunity to do so came into view it would quickly disappear because the other driver would speed up or do something to avert your opportunity. Finally you get your chance and go around the person. You look over in an attempt to quench your curiosity and see the person is talking on their cell phone.
It all makes sense now; they are paying more attention to the conversation they have going on than to their driving. Driving is a dangerous activity in itself, but when you add other distractions like talking and or texting on a cell phone, the outcomes can be anything but pleasant and lead to extensive consequences. Drivers are far more distracted while talking on a cell phone than just talking to a passenger in the car. Recently my wife and I were going to a store. I have driven this route several times and knew exactly where to turn, but because of the distraction of talking, I missed my turn.
This happened with just a passenger in the car. I can only assume if I had a cell phone up to my ear, or even using a hands free device that the outcome could have been worse due to the higher level of distraction. A study at the University of Utah in 2008, led by Frank Drews, PhD, analyzed the driving performance of mostly young adult drivers paired with friends who served as conversation partners. In the cell-phone conversation condition, drivers’ conversation partners were at another location. In the in-car conversation condition, partners sat next to their drivers.
In each of the experiments, one person was randomly selected to be the driver and the other the conversation partner. Throughout the extensive study, drivers talking by cell phone drove significantly worse than drivers talking to passengers. The cell-phone users were more likely to drift in their lane, kept a greater distance between their car and the car in front, and were four times more likely to miss their designated turn. Passenger conversation barely affected all three measures (American Psychological Association, 2008).
Another study by a University of South Carolina psychology researcher provides a better understanding of why talking and listening on a cell phone interferes with visual tasks such as driving. In two different experiments, associate professor of psychology Dr. Amit Almor found that planning to speak and speaking put far more demands on the brain’s resources than listening. The study measured drivers attention levels and found people were four times more distracted while preparing to speak or speaking than when listening (University of South Carolina, 2008).
This all makes sense to me, you are trying to multi-task and when you do that you are splitting your attention between two or more things, thus reducing your overall awareness. Yet, there are a lot of people that still believe they drive just fine while talking on the phone. People also believe because they use a hands-free device while talking it doesn’t affect their driving. I agree, but your still talking on the phone while driving. The National Safety Council has done extensive research studies and has stated, “drivers using hands-free phones and those using handheld phones have a tendency to “look at” but not “see” objects.
These distracted drivers experience what researchers call inattention blindness. The drivers are looking out the windshield but they are not processing everything in the roadway environment” (National Safety Council, 2010). This inattention blindness causes slower reaction times, which is going to cause problems if anything unexpected happens around you. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to read a bunch of studies to know that slower reaction times will cause you to miss things when you are driving.
Since I’ve showed you how talking on the phone can be distracting, what do you think texting is going to do? Texting is the craze now, and it seems everybody is doing it. Why not, with these new smart phones that almost everybody has now days, it has become very easy to do. Even I do it on occasion, which is surprising because before I had a smart phone, if someone texted me I would just call them rather than text back. Teenagers have this texting thing mastered. I watch my teenage daughter text and ould swear she is typing 100 words per minute or more.
With teens being the default experts at texting, do you think only they are irresponsible enough to text message while driving? If your answer is yes, then you are wrong. Yes, teens text, but according to an article in USA Today, “you’re looking at around 10 million teen drivers, but about 180 million other adult drivers. Almost half of all adults admit to texting while driving in a survey by AT&T provided to USA today, compared with 43% of teenagers.
More than 98% of adults — almost all of them — admit they know it’s wrong” (USA Today, 2013). We know its wrong, yet we still do it. Is this setting a good example for our teens? I think we are setting them up for failure. Think about how long it takes for you to do a text and take into consideration your doing it with one hand since you need to keep on hand on the steering wheel. How long did you take your eyes off the road? Shockingly, texting drivers take their eyes off the road for each text an average of 4. seconds, which at 55 mph, means they were driving the length of a football field without looking (Davis, 2010). Yes there are a lot of excuses such as traffic was light, or I’m going slow, or I’m at a light. To me these are “just excuses”. Each time you take your focus off the road, even if just for a split second, you’re putting your life and the lives of others in danger. According to the U. S. Department of Transportation distracted driving-related crashes caused at least 5,500 deaths and nearly 450,000 injuries in 2009 (Johnson, 2013).
I imagine these numbers have gone up since then with the advancement in technology and the rise in popularity of cell phones. The University of North Texas Health Science Center has looked at traffic data from the Fatality Accident Reporting System and texting data from the FCC and CTIA, and came to the conclusion that texting while driving is responsible for accidents that claimed 16,141 lives during the period of 2001 – 2007 (Chester, 2010). Common sense should tell you that texting and driving is dangerous, but plenty of people continue to do it.
In an article from Psychology Today, statistics from surveys report that 97 percent of teens admit that texting while driving is dangerous, yet they still do it and 43 percent of them teens actually admitted to texting while driving. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, texting while driving makes you 23 times more likely to be in an accident. The National Safety Council says texting while driving is to blame for 1,600,000 accidents per year.
The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study accounts 330,000 injuries per year and 11 teen deaths every day according to the Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts (Lohmann, 2012). If these statistics don’t scare you and make you rethink how your possible bad habits affect other people then maybe you should just turn in your drivers license and take the bus. Due to all the distractions that cell phones create and the dangers associated with this, many states have established laws on cell phone use while driving.
Eleven states, Washington D. C. , Puerto Rico, Guam and the U. S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but thirty seven states and Washington D. C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and nineteen states and Washington D. C. prohibit it for school bus drivers. Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007. Currently, forty-one states, D. C. , Puerto Rico, Guam and the U. S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. An additional six states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers and three states restrict school bus drivers from texting.
All but four states have primary enforcement, which means an officer may cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place (Governors Highway Safety Association, 2013). You can see that the states are cracking down on cell phone use while driving and it all is in response to the related dangers and safety concerns. Texting-while-driving penalties vary wildly from state to state and range from $20 to $10,000. These are the maximum penalties when no accident has occurred.
In cases where texting while driving results in damage or injury, the punishment can go up quite sharply (Gareffa, 2013). In my home state of Colorado, per Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-239, drivers younger than 18 are prohibited from using cell phones (handheld or hands-free) while driving with a few exceptions for emergencies. All drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. A person who violates these laws commits a class A traffic violation and the fines would be fifty dollars for the first offense and one hundred dollars for a second or subsequent offense (Colorado Peace Officer’s Handbook, 2013).
If you don’t know what the particular laws are in your home state, I strongly urge you to research that information. Conclusion As I stated in the beginning, we all rely on cell phones way too much and this is causing us to make some bad decisions. Due to our multi-tasking society we all tend to think we can handle using the cell phone while we’re driving. The reality is we are far more distracted when we talk on the phone while driving and this causes us to lose awareness of the environment around us.
With the newer smart phones of today, texting has become a part of our existence. When we try to text while driving we have to take our eyes off the road, even if only for a second or two. This behavior endangers you and anybody around you. The statistics and data presented here and that is available at other various websites should be more than enough evidence to convince you that using your cell phone while driving is a bad idea. If its not and you want to continue your current behavior then you will be responsible for the consequences.
The consequences will come from your particular state laws that have been established in response to safety concerns. As I previously stated: Driving is a dangerous activity in itself, but when you add other distractions like talking and or texting on a cell phone, the outcomes can be anything but pleasant and lead to extensive consequences. I hope my words here make you think twice the next time you pick up your cell phone while driving. I know I’m not perfect and I’m guilty of talking on the cell phone while driving, but after writing this I know my behavior will be changing.