A Chance, Not Worth Taking!

July 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Meet Carrie.

A devoted and well-loved: teacher, community leader, mother, family member, and citizen. Her story is tragic but her message is clear: No Text Message Is Worth a Life.

Driven to Distraction: What Is It?

According to the Canadian Automobile Association distracted driving commonly involves driving while:

  • using technological devices such as cell phones, computers, and GPS ,
  • eating and or drinking,
  • changing a CD,
  • fiddling with radio dials,
  • talking to passengers,
  • attending to children,
  • personal grooming,
  • experiencing emotional distress, to even
  • looking at billboards and/or other vehicles on the road

Whatever it may be, distracted driving is the diversion of a driver’s attention off the road, even for a second or two. Some tasks can be physical in nature which require drivers to take their hands off the wheel; others can be cognitive in which a driver’s mind wanders off of the road; and even worse, some can be a combination of both in which a driver’s eyes and mind shift away from the road.

Caution! Distracted driving is not okay and should be avoided at all costs. If it is not a matter of life or death, minimize its use! 

Car Mode? Why Isn’t There An APP for That?!

By now, we are all aware of the dangers surrounding hand-held devices and the consquences it can have while one’s attention is diverted instead of focused solely on attending to traffic and obeying to the rules of the road. Why, then, haven’t our genious creaters of some of our favorite smartphones not created an app for Car Mode? In this recent Globe and Mail article, we are brought into an interesting read that undoubtedly links us to a thought provoking solution that could potentially aid in resolving many of the statistics surrounding collisions and accidents occuring on our roads from drivers who attempt to multi-task.

Know The Statistics!

According to Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving, in 2010, 3092 people were killed in crashes involving distraction and 416,000 people were injured.

  • CAA reports the summary of the 2006, US National Highway Traffic Safety study which concluded an estimated 4 million crashes per year (or 8 out of every 10 accidents) were caused by distracted driving.
  • Furthermore, reports suggest that texting while driving can increase one’s chances of a crash by 23 times more than for those who are not texting while driving.
  • Studies have also shown that sending and receiving messages can divert a driver’s attention away from the road for an average of 5 seconds!
  • In a research report, written by Marcel Adam Just, Timothy Keller, and Jacquelyn Cynkar (2008), it was found that driving while using a cellphone can reduce the amount of brain activity needed for driving by 37%.
  • Additionally, studies have shown that even when knowing the risks, people will still continue their habits. “They become like zombies, slaves to their electronic equipment,” OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor said.

With some now terming distracted driving as the new DUI, these statistics and facts are absolutely startling.

Insane Comparison Between Drunk Driving and Text Driving

Presented below is a list created to summarize and provide additionally critical reasons why distracted driving needs and should be avoided:

List 1: Reasons AGAINST Using Technologies While Driving
  • Can cause accidents—minor, serious, even fatal
    • When attention becomes diverged and divided, one has slower reaction times and can miss important stops, have difficultly maneuvering around obstacles, etc.
  • Collisions of any kind can create property damage to vehicles that can add up and be costly! Any accident can lead to crazy traffic buildups and more problems for others
    • Health care costs,
    • Insurance costs,
    • Lost work time, and
    • Litigation costs to name a few.
  • Ripple Effect
    • Victims lives are forever changed/impaired and offenders can be forever impacted with shame, guilt, and remorse
      • ….So why risk it?!

Why Do We Continue To Do It? Good People, Making Stupid Mistakes.

As we can see driving while using technological devices such as cell phones, computers, and GPS is quite a heated issue, that certainly has its associated detrimental costs. Generally speaking, I have been indifferent on the subject matter. Often believing I am a ‘smart driver’ so-to-speak.

However, with that being said, I would be lying if I claimed never to have used my cell phone to either make/receive calls or texts while driving.

The core surrounding my belief about being a ‘smart driver’ is that I, like many other people, often think it’s okay to use such devices when it is safe and appropriate to do so, i.e.when there is little to no cars on the road and in emergency situations.

In other words, reasons why people continue to use devices while driving can be a result of the mere fact that nothing truly tragic has happened to them; therefore their behaviour is reinforced. And interestingly enough, in the search to answer this question, I have sat down and contemplated a list, shown below, in which I found it particularly easy to recall more incentives for using the devices described above than agaisnt:

List 2: Reasons FOR Using Technologies While Driving
  • Personal Benefits:
    • In constant contact with family, friends, and work
    • Avoid unnecessary trips back and forth to run errands, etc.
    • Improves mental alertness (from long boring drives, talking to someone can help)
    • Contributes to security and peace of mind
      • Especially while driving at night,
      • Letting parents, friends, etc. know when you will be late
    • As such, a simple call or text can help reduce the risk of speeding to get to places and appointments
    • Obtaining directions when in need
  • Work Benefits:
    • Can book/verify meetings and appointments
    • Check emails
    • Make calls
    • Come home early by completing tasks on the go
    • Expands productivity for commuter
  • Social Networking:
    • Always in contact with the world, staying connected and in touch, never easier than a click of a simple app

What Now?

However, upon analyzing the rationales for and against the use of technologies while driving it’s clear there are several severe costs that far outweigh any apparent benefit that may have been conjured. Thus, undoubtedly, my opinion and position on this matter has forever changed.  In particular, this superficial need that society has created requiring constant ‘staying in touch’ and ‘in contact’ with the world is overrated, especially when we can no longer concentrate or function without ‘checking in.’

Furthermore, the whole notion surrounding ‘time is money,’ that a simple commute cannot be done without simultaneously conducting several other tasks (such as checking/responding to emails, making client phone calls, verifying appointments, etc.) truly seems mind-boggling. 

Though, there have been several efforts made by policy makers to control the use of hand-held devices while driving, such as the creation of Ontario’s hands-free law that has been intact since October of 2009 and comes with a stiff fine that can range from $500.00 to $1,000 for violation. This ban has allowed for other things such as Bluetooth technology and speakerphone to come into play.  And this, however, still does not solve or account for many of the collisions and problems that can arise when one carries forth in distracted driving. For instance, studies have shown that the type of conversation that participants are engaging in during their calls can also play a pivotal role. More serious or upsetting subjects that require the driver to react not only diverts attention from the road but it can also lead one to miss/delay both reaction time and traffic signals.

If this does not frighten anyone, I have no idea what would…

Making a Difference: It Can Be Done!

Not only do we, as a society, need to create awareness and realize that in order to protect ourselves we have to be wise and use our common sense, but it is equally essential to acknowledge that we have the safety of others, both on and off the road, in our hands.

As such, it is amazing how future directions being looked at are progressing.  With the potential introduction of the “It Can Wait” computer simulators, this innovation shows promise.  With the hopes of providing a virtual experience that aims to facilitate driving education courses,  students are given the opportunity to see first hand what consequences and dangers involved in distracted driving are; even with a very brief glance away from the road.

With positive strides to address this epidemic and our basic knowledge, it seems we are on the right track. In Canada, an educational prevention program has been initiated, more specifically referred to as, Drop It And Drive (D.I.A.D). This program, unlike any other currently available, provides powerful, reality-based, interactive, mutli-speaker presentations with energetic and passionate individuals whom advocate about the dangers surrounding distracted driving. Going across the country and touching the lives of many with their personal stories and experiences, founder of D.I.A.D proudly reports their high success,  especially in their first annual review showing the dramatic increases in visitor viewing of their website from 2010 to 2011 alone.

On a final note, Transport Canada provides several tips one can follow while driving (and even being the passenger) in a car to prevent accidents from occurring. Though these tips may seem very obvious, they are here to remind us how simple it is to avoid taking risks that are not worth taking at all.

Until Next Time,

-H.A.

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