It takes approximately 4.6 seconds to read an incoming text message - the equivalent (at 55 MPH) of traveling the length of an entire football field, blind.
One of the most important things people should understand about cell phone use while driving is that “multi-tasking” is a myth. The human brain is physically incapable of concentrating on two cognitive tasks at one time (such as carrying on a conversation and driving a vehicle.) Instead of processing both cognitive tasks at once, the brain rapidly switches between the two activities. Due to this rapid switching, drivers who are talking or texting can literally miss seeing up to 50% of their driving environment. This is a phenomenon known as “inattention blindness.” The switching in your brain is happening so quickly, you don’t even consciously realize it’s happening; however, it’s during these periods of inattention blindness that crashes happen. Your brain switches tasks in an instant, but it only takes an instant for something to happen in front of you...something you literally will never see until it’s too late.
In addition to literally taking your mind off the task of driving, texting (or Facebooking, Instagramming, etc.) also takes your eyes and hands away from the task of driving.
Texting and driving has become a very hot topic in the world of highway safety over the last few years. Officials are just now starting to understand how dangerous the practice is, and how many fatalities are occurring because of it. Educators and government officials are working tirelessly to help others understand how dangerous cell phone use while driving really is. But in the meantime, our dependence on our cell phones increases.
Cell phones have become our lifeline, and it’s understandable that you want it close by in case of an emergency. But, here are a few things you can do to help you resist the temptation of using it while you’re driving:
- Put your phone on silent when you get behind the wheel.
- Keep your phone in the console of your car, so it’s close at hand in an emergency, but not a temptation to use.
- Install one of the numerous driving apps that disables texting and email while driving.
- Let your friends know that if they text you and you don’t answer, you’re probably driving and you’ll text them when you get stopped.
- Take a stand - for yourself! Let your friends know that you’d rather not ride with them if they drive distracted.
- If you absolutely must send a text or place a call, or if Snapchat just can’t wait, find a safe place to pull off the roadway first. There is no message, no photo, no email, no status update, and no phone call that is worth a life.
Other Types of Distractions
We talk about cell phones a lot, and rightfully so. But there are other things that people do behind the wheel that are also distractions:
- Eating or drinking
- Talking to other passengers
- Applying makeup
- Combing hair
- Using a navigation system
- Reading - including newspapers, books, or even maps
- Adjusting the radio or MP3 player
Anything that takes your mind, your eyes, or your hands off of your primary task - driving - is a distraction.
Remember, you are driving a 2,000+ pound lethal weapon. The ONLY thing you should be concentrating on while driving, is driving.