Can we EVER get people to stop driving distracted?
Week after week I read news stories of drivers caught on dash-cam or stopped by police for distracted driving – whether it be texting, attempting to read a book or even eating their cereal (yes, I have read about drivers doing this on more than one occasion).
Sadly, it doesn’t end there. All too often the stories involve fatalities, including a recent news article about a truck driver who caused a fatal crash because he was fiddling with his sat nav.
It was reported that the 36-year-old driver was attempting to get his TomTom to return back to the route he was going on to see how long he had left on his journey. He careered into almost-stationary traffic which resulted in the death of a 37-year-old married father of one. In court the truck driver admitted causing death by dangerous driving.
This is by no means an isolated incident and far too many innocent people are losing their lives on our roads as a result of drivers taking their eyes – and concentration – off the road.
A few years ago the main distraction we focused on was talking on a mobile/ cell phone. These days this is just one of many potential distractions. We have got sat navs, smartphones, smart watches, texts, emails, apps and more. And in today’s 24/7 world, where people are expected to be available around the clock, it can become harder to switch off.
In recent years we have seen the introduced of the term ‘FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out), which is largely used when referring to the younger generation and their reliance on social media.
In fact, one survey confirmed that this ‘always on’ lifestyle has manifested itself in potentially deadly consequences behind the wheel.
The survey found that over half of teens (55 percent) admitted to texting and driving in order to update their parents of their location. Worryingly, one in five (19 percent) believed their parents expected a text response within just ONE minute – even if they knew their teen would be driving. Interestingly, over half of the parents in the survey said they did not have set expectations on teens’ response time.
The survey also found that a third of teens (37 percent) would text to confirm or coordinate event details while driving and one in three (34 percent) would take their eyes off the road when app notifications came in.
So, what we can do about it? A recent news article in the Gazette pointed out that mobile/cell phone use while driving could be one of the reasons that traffic deaths in Iowa had not declined over the past three years after decades of steadily falling numbers. In response, Iowa lawmakers were reportedly considering strengthening the state’s texting while driving law to make it a primary offense – as is the case in a number of other states in the USA.
In the UK it is against the law to use your mobile phone while driving to follow a map, read a text or check social media. The law applies even if you are stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
Despite the law, many drivers are failing to see the dangers of taking their eyes off the road – and tackling the epidemic of distracted driving is a major challenge.
The month of April has been declared ‘National Distracted Driving Awareness Month’ by the United States’ National Safety Council, in an effort to highlight this growing problem.
The NSC has produced all kinds of resources such as videos, posters and infographics to show the extent of the problem and encourage people to stop making calls, texting, using social media and any other distractions while at the wheel.
I urge you to take a look and if you are ever considering driving while distracted, ask yourself ‘can it wait’? It could just save your life.
What’s the worst example of distracted driving you’ve seen on the road? And what can we do about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.