Of all the articles we have presented, please read this one! Being the last week of National Safety Month, and sponsored by the National Safety Council, this week’s title can have more impact on drivers than anything, if they will pay attention! The theme is “On the Road – OFF the Phone!” After reading information that the National Safety Council has to offer, I am now convinced that when I start my car, my cell phone will be turned OFF. Whatever messages I have will be there when I arrive at my destination. If I need to make a call, I will do it when I am stopped for a soft drink or break and the car is parked.
We have written about this subject as other bloggers, all in the interest of keeping drivers safe: distracted driving, drunk or drugged driving, texting and driving, and all the hazards of driving a vehicle that can cost your life or the lives of many innocent persons. In the United States, so far this year, 626,997 (count ’em!) crashes involving drivers using cell phones while driving have already happened. That’s one crash every 29 seconds!
Although I could use the hands-free device in my car, I really don’t like to use it. Now, I am finding that hands-free driving is really no safer. Vision is the most important sense for safe driving. Many times, drivers using hands-free phones (and those using handheld phones) have a tendency to “look at” but not “see” objects. There are estimates that show that drivers using cell phones look but fail to see up to 50 per cent of the information in their driving environment. This is what researchers call “inattention blindness,” similar to that of tunnel vision. They are looking out the windshield, but they do not process everything in the roadway that they must know to effectively monitor their surroundings, seek and identify potential hazards, and respond to unexpected situations. (Primarily, because they are too engrossed in their phone conversation!)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 11 per cent of drivers at any given time are using cell phones, (there are more than 285.6 million wireless subscribers in the U.S., many who admit that they regularly talk or text while driving. The National Safety Council estimates more than one in four motor vehicle crashes involve cell phone use at the time of the crash. This shows us that cell phone use while driving has become a serious public health threat. A few states have passed laws making it illegal to use a handheld cell phone while driving; this gives the false impression that using a hands-free phone is safe.
At one time, alcohol and speeding were the leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes; now “distractions” has been added to the list. Although texting is clearly a serious distraction, NSC data shows drivers talking on cell phones are involved in more crashes. More people are talking on cell phones while driving more often, and for longer periods of time than they are texting. In 2008, an estimated 200,000 crashes involved texting or emailing, versus 1.4 million crashes involving talking on cell phones.
I recently advised my grandson, who is in the Graduated Drivers Licensing program, to make that a habit. After learning this information, I am more than convinced that I told him to do the right thing; whether or not he will, is his and his parents’ decision. However, I am going to turn mine OFF while driving! I will let my friends and family know that the phone is off while I am driving, and they can leave a message. That’s one more way to solve the problem; let callers know that you won’t be answering while driving.
Hands-free devices often are seen as a solution to the risks of driver distraction because they help eliminate two risks – visual, looking away from the road and manual, removing your hands off the steering wheel. However, the third type of distraction can occur when using cell phones while driving, cognitive – taking your mind off the road! Hands-free devices do not eliminate cognitive distraction. Cognitive distraction will be our subject for tomorrow. Till then, hang up, and drive safely!