Distracted Driving

When I started driving a truck 25 years ago, we did not have things like cell phones or even computers.  If we wanted to talk on the phone, we would stop the truck at a truck stop, go and get a fresh cup of coffee and sit at a payphone and call whomever we needed to talk to. In fact, the company I worked for at the time required that we called in every morning to check in with them.

As the years go by, and technology changes and improves, we were giving pagers.  Oh, we were big time then- if a dispatcher needed you, he would just page you and you would pull over and give them a call.  It was also nice, in the fact that you could give your loved ones the number and they could page you as well if they needed to get a hold of you.

Then Cell Phones came along. Now in the beginning they were expensive to own and expensive to use. I remember paying $.25 a minute to talk on one.  But like most things they came down in price for both the phone and the service.  Now days you can just about get a phone for free and pay $30 to $50 a month for unlimited talk and text with data thrown in for the fun of  it.

So why am I talking about cell phones and pagers?  That brings us to the point of this post. Distracted Driving.

First we need to talk about what Distracted Driving is.  According to the US Government Distracted Driving is doing any activity other than driving.  Seems straightforward but some of the activities done while driving are Texting, Using a Cell Phone or Smartphone, Eating and Drinking, Talking to passengers, Grooming, and the list goes on. The simple definition is doing anything other than driving, plain and simple.

Let’s look at some of the stats; on the average there are over 2.5 million accidents each year, of those 1.6 million involve a distracted driver using or texting on a cell phone. Think about that for a second.  1.6 million people are involved in some type of accident because someone needed to text their BFF.  Let’s break that down a little more, of the 1.6 million getting into an accident while texting 78% of them are involved in an accident with serious injuries or death.  That is about 330,000 people dead or injured each year from texting alone.

Are you kidding me?  Let’s put that number into perspective.  The town of Corpus Christi, Texas has a population of 320,434 according to the US Census Bureau.  So everyone in that town would be seriously injured or dead each year from Texting and Driving.  I am not picking on Corpus Christi, but I want to point out that an entire city population could be injured or dead in just one year.  That is a lot of people.

Here is more numbers to think about. 11 teenagers are killed each day from texting and driving.  Yes you read that right, 11 teenagers will be killed today from texting.  Now we know that 94% of all teenagers admit that they understand the danger of texting and driving, of that 35% of them don’t care and admit they will text and drive anyways. Oh we are not done with teenagers, 25% of all teenage drivers will respond to an incoming text. 20% of teenagers have admitted to carrying on a full text conversation while driving.

This is not only a teenager problem; adults are a little better, but not much. 10% of all adults admit to having a full text conversation while driving.  Yes that is less than teenagers but it is still not at 0%.  Here is another fact.  It is safer to drive drunk that it is to text and drive.  Think about that for a minute, you are 6 times more likely to get into an accident while texting and driving than you are if you are drunk driving.

How do we stop it?

The simple answer is just don’t do it, that text will be there when you park, I promise you. The federal and state Governments and enacted laws trying to prevent these needless accidents.  For Commercial drivers it is illegal to text while driving as well as talking on your cell phone without a headset. If you are caught doing either you will receive a fine as will as your company.  Owner Operators are in a worse bind, because they get both fines and they are not cheap. It will cost the driver up to $2,750 per offence. A company may have to pay up to $11,000 for each driver caught. That may discourage commercial drivers but it will not help teenage drivers and non-commercial drivers. I have found some tools to help parents with their teenage drivers. Listed below are some app you can install on your teenagers smart phone, some of them are free and some are low cost (like $0.99).

This product is an app that you install on your smartphone that auto response to any text you receive.  That way if someone texts you they will know you are driving and you can answer the text when you are safely parked.
This product is like the one above, it is an autoresponder that will send a preformatted text for any incoming texts.  This product is free and is in beta so may not be for everyone.
This is another autoresponder with a lot more features, and it is free :).  This one can be linked to Smart Connect, when the car starts this app will be automatically turned on, so you don’t have to worry about manually starting it.
This product is a little more aggressive, it will block everything.  It will cost a $1.99 but it will stop incoming call, texts and email.  This product was designed for parents by parents.  It is worth a look.

Don’t be fooled

You can install all the tools you want, but the best way to stop this is education!  Talk with your teens, let them know the dangers.  This is a problem that can go away if we want it too.  Laws and tools can do so much; we need to take the extra steps yourself and just stop using handheld devices while driving.

Cell phones are not the only problems, there are other devices and activities that are done while driving that will cause the same result.  Computers, TV’s and eating a hamburger will all do the same thing.  The bottom line is, when you are behind the wheel- drive the car, do the rest when you are parked.  That 1.6 million accidents will get down to 0 with a little thinking and a lot of just driving.

Until next time, thanks for reading


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