Technology is amazing. I am always in awe of the latest gadgets that come out that help simplify or better organize our lives. In an article by the Chicago Tribune titled “Technology can distract drivers,” the writer perfectly sums up the current trend in luxury and connectivity in motor vehicles: “New cars these days act like smartphones on wheels. Drivers can use voice commands to operate their devices, listen to text messages being automatically read aloud and connect to phone applications, including a new Domino’s-Ford app for ordering pizza on the go.”
But, even with great advances, these technological devices require some amount of visual, manual and/or cognitive attention of its users – all the same tasks that we, as drivers, need to safely control a moving vehicle. While many believe they have no problem multitasking, you can’t beat the facts:
- Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.
- Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by 3X.
- Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4X as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
- Texting and driving causes reaction time to double and those drivers have a harder time staying in their lane and maintaining a consistent speed (Texas A&M Transportation Institute).
- For drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21% of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts).
Even though more states are introducing distracted driving laws, such as no texting and driving or only hands-free devices are allowed, progress is slow. In fact, according to a study by the University of Utah, hands-free does not equate risk-free. “These new, speech-based technologies in the car can overload the driver’s attention and impair their ability to drive safely…an unintended consequence of trying to make driving safer – by moving to speech-to-text, in-vehicle systems – may actually overload the driver and make them less safe.”
Bottom line, the best defense is to make a conscious decision to kick distractions out of the car.