Understanding Cell Phone Distractions to Avoid a Tragic Accident
Now that cars are built to be easier to drive, people seem to forget that driving takes skill and focus. Rather than utilizing newer technology (GPS, blind spot sensors, automatic navigation, lane departure warnings) to enhance safety, drivers are using it to replace their own responsibilities. As such, driving has become a secondary activity. It’s something you do in the background as you plan meetings, take care of your kids in the backseat, update your Facebook status, etc.
In case you’re wondering: this isn’t good.
Driving requires a certain amount of focus and responsibility that you just can’t provide when you’re distracted. The one and only thing that you should be focusing on is driving safely. In other words: safety should never be secondary to anything.
Encouraging Dangerous Driving Distraction
In addition to “convenience technology” making it easier to avoid driving responsibilities, distractions from cell phone use have led drivers to actively choose to put themselves and others in danger.
According to a study of 1,000 drivers conducted by the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, about 98% of survey respondents believe texting while driving is dangerous, but 75% of those people still engage in the practice. But why? Why do drivers willingly put themselves in danger? The reasons are more basic than you may think:
- The need to get a rush. It’s pretty exciting to hear the “ping” of your phone when you get a call or text—someone is thinking about you. The reason you feel that “buzz” is because your body releases dopamine as a response to feeling wanted. That good feeling encourages us to do it again and again—much like the effects of drug addiction.
- The need to mimic others (peer pressure). You’ve likely told your kids again and again that texting while driving is dangerous. However, if you engage in the dangerous activity, you are sending a pretty big message. Remember, actions speak louder than words, which means your kids are more likely to do as you do, not as you say. If you text while you drive, chances are that your teen will do the same.
- The need to be efficient. The concept of multi-tasking is ingrained in our minds and we believe we must perform this activity in order to be successful. Oftentimes, that means talking or texting while driving. We feel that keeping up with communication is somehow more important than our safety.
The problem isn’t text messaging itself. Texting can be an extremely useful and convenient way of communicating. However, there is a time and place for it, neither of which occur while you’re driving.
As a result of the potential driving dangers involved with cell phone use, state governments, traffic administrations, and app developers are working hard on developing safety solutions. Some of these potential solutions include the following:
Forty-six states have now banned texting for all drivers. As concerns have been made regarding the safety of sending text messages while behind the wheel, many people have rallied to have texting and driving banned. Texas currently does not have a texting ban for all drivers. However, it does have a texting ordinance which states:
- Drivers with learner permits are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in the first six months of driving.
- Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using wireless communications devices.
- School bus operators are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present.
- In school zones, all drivers are prohibited from texting and using handheld devices while driving.
In addition, San Antonio and Austin have passed their own ordinances prohibiting texting and driving that can result in hefty fines.
Some developers have created text safety phone apps that disable the texting feature on a phone if and when the phone detects movement above a certain speed. The applications use GPS to distinguish if the phone is in a moving vehicle. Some apps will even send automatic texts back to the sender stating the phone owner will respond shortly.
Just as campaigns have been used to decrease drunk driving accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, along with other associations, is promoting safe texting campaigns to educate drivers of cell phone use risks.
As personal injury attorneys, we can tell you that the driving consequences of technological distractions are very real. We have represented clients who have had their lives upended simply because another driver was talking on the phone or text messaging when he should have been concentrating on the task at hand. Before you pick up the phone behind the wheel, remember that your decision may not only affect your future but other lives as well.