Letting oneself become distracted while driving is one of the most dangerous things our highways are facing.  First, food and drink were the contributors to distracted driving.  Now, with cell phones being the main culprit, we are seeing more and more accidents being caused by not only talking on the phone while driving, but texting while behind the wheel.  New cars are being designed with technological advancements that require looking at the screen rather than the road, so it is easy to see why so many drivers today are guilty of driving distracted, often as a result of multi-tasking. 

According to studies on driving distractions, focus is placed on three major forms of distractions: physical, visual, and cognitive.  Using a cell phone while driving places cognitive demands on the user.  Talking on the phone requires concentration to listen, process and respond as opposed to just listening.  An even higher, more dangerous level of driving distraction is text messaging.  This affects all three major forms of driving distraction simultaneously.  It has been shown that hands-free phones are no safer than handheld ones. 

Almost every day we  hear a story about a child or innocent person who has been killed by someone talking on his/her cell phone, who ran a red light, or failed to see the other car.  Go to Focus Driven – Advocates for Cell-Free Driving and read some of the stories of how the use of cell phones while driving have impacted the lives of others, those who lost a child or family member.  There is no conversation that is so important that is worth taking the chance of hurting or killing someone.  It’s a simple thing to turn that cell phone off.  Your messages will be there when you arrive safely at your destination.  Just think how convenient it is to have your very own answering machine with you, taking your messages.  If you will get into the habit of turning your phone off, you will learn to appreciate a nice, quiet drive without disruption.  The experience of reading those stories has convinced me to turn my phone off while I am driving.  I have said it before, and then slipped back into the habit of setting it close by, but I don’t want to be guilty of hurting an innocent person because of some conversation with a friend, that could wait until I am out of my car. 

In the words of one of the guest bloggers on the Original Blog of Focus Driven-Advocates for Cell-Free phones: “Should connectivity be prioritized over safety?  Refraining from using a cell phone while driving may seem impossible to some.  Drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to crash.  Sending or receiving text messages increases crash risk by at least eight times.  No text, no conversation, no status update of email is worth putting your life, or another person’s life, in danger.”  This man was describing the devastation of losing his 12-year old son, who was riding with his mother when her SUV was hit on his side of the car by a woman ran a red light, talking on her cell-phone.  His son would now be 21, and, sadly,  his parents can only imagine what he would have been like at that age. 

If we are ever to change this problem, it is going to involve everyone.  If you receive a call from someone while they are driving, ask them to hang up, because you don’t want them to have an accident, and then ask them to call you when they get home.  Speak up if you are a passenger, and tell your driver to please stop texting while you are in the car.  It will take courage to tell your friends, family members and co-workers, who use their cell phones while driving, to ask them to take the pledge to drive cell-free.  Help change the social acceptance about cell phone distracted driving.  This should begin with new drivers, who need to get into the habit of not using their phones as soon as they begin driving, and of course, parents, who should have set the example for them. 

Tomorrow, we will continue with how distracted driving affects companies’ liability when their drivers use cell phones while operating company vehicles, and how they are correcting the problem.