How Dangerous Is It To Drive While Talking Or Texting?
Mobile devices have become a ubiquitous part of our lives. Though there are many advantages that come with using them, there are also some unintended negative consequences, especially when used while driving. Cell phone use while driving has become an important talking point, and this article helps to spell out the risks.
Various studies and data point out the dangers associated with texting or talking while you drive. A report released by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that 18 percent of all fatal accidents in the US were caused by the use of cellphones while driving. In 2012 alone, 3328 people were killed and more than 421,000 people were injured due to cell phone use while driving. Further, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that text messaging increases the risk of accident by 23 times that of driving without a cell phone.
Another study conducted among adults in 2014 showed that 37 percent of adults text while driving, and this is more than the number of people who drink and drive. Further, an alarming report from the Transport Research Laboratory of UK shows that while texting, the response time of drivers deteriorated by 37 percent, when compared to 13 percent by alcohol and 21 percent by cannabis. Despite this impairment, people continue to use their cell phones while driving, as is evident from the report from the US Department of Transportation that states that at any given time, more than 660,000 Americans across the country are using their cell phones while driving, and this practice transcends gender.
In fact, this practice of using cell phones is more prevalent among teens and young adults. As a study by Pew Research shows, 40 percent of American teens have been in a car where the driver used a cell phone in a way that increased the chances of an accident. Also, 11 percent of drivers between 18 to 20 years old who were involved in some form of accident admitted to using their cell phone while driving.
From the above statistics and studies, it is clear that cell phone distractions endanger life and property in a big way.
This brings up the next question: Why is it dangerous to use cell phone while driving?
In general, there are three main types of distractions while driving, and they are:
- Visual – Distractions that take your eyes off the road
- Manual – Distractions that take your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive – Distractions that take your mind off driving
Each of these distractions increases the possibility for accidents. Cell phones combine all three distractions, and this is what makes them so dangerous. When you text or call, you will tend to take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off driving. All this means: The chances of an accident increases greatly when using a cell phone.
This increased chance of an accident stems from the fact that humans are not genetically predisposed to multitasking, though we may think otherwise. Studies have repeatedly shown that our human brain can perform tasks only in a linear manner, and that the brain simply switches between tasks when needed. The 100 billion neurons that send messages to the brain are incapable of sending multiple messages at the same time. This means, when we have a task on hand and do it with our full concentration, we can do an amazing job of it. If we have to do two tasks at the same time, then the productivity and concentration gets divided, and this is evident in the performance. The same applies to driving too. When you drive and talk, you are unable to do both properly. Even if your concentration is equally divided, there is a 50 percent chance that you will make a mistake, and this is why multitasking is really not for us.
Besides mental abilities, our body structure also comes with its natural limitations. The presence of only two hands greatly limits our ability to use tools. In fact, one of the first lessons taught in Driver’s Ed is “both hands on the wheel”, and this lesson precludes the availability of hands to do other tasks like using the cell phone.
The human eye also has its limitations, as both eyes can see only in the same direction. Let’s say, you’re traveling at a speed of 55 mph and you take your eyes off the road for a mere five seconds to read an incoming text message. While it may seem insignificant to you, it amounts to driving blindfolded across a football field filled with obstacles. In this sense, this five-second break can be an eternity when you’re faced with such obstacles, and the impact is sure to be severe. This is exactly the effect when you text and drive.
From the above statistics and human limitations, it is clear that we cannot text or call while driving as it increases the chances of an accident greatly. Let’s listen to our bodies, and do everything we can to protect ourselves and others from death or injury while driving.