Three days before the writing of this post my car was in a collision with a distracted driver. That's the term the police use to describe someone texting while driving. He ran a red light and plowed into the side of my car–all because he was looking at a little screen full of text and not at his windshield.
Our cultural demand for preoccupation continues as we look to find ways to fill every crevice of our day with some form of social or media-driven connectivity. If I turn off the fancy $5 words and say it a different way; we're all distracted.
And we're all in mortal danger.
How many times have we missed stop lights, stop signs, turn signals or had to break suddenly because someone in front of us isn't paying attention? Too many to count. It's because that driver is on the phone, distracted. I commute back and forth to work 50-miles a day round-trip. Not one day goes by where I don't see someone–on the freeway and on surface streets–texting while their car is on cruise control. These text/commuters aren't just teenagers either. They're often driving nice cars; BMWs, Mercedes, Porches, Acuras.
Is the car in front of you going 50 mph in a 65mph zone? This usually means some suit is conducting a business call or some soccer mom is swapping cookie recipes on their cell and is completely oblivious to the rush-hour traffic all around them. Or it's the air-headed teen, too enthralled her own chatter about nothingness that she doesn't even notice she's drifting into your lane.
Distracted driving is killing us. Literally. Text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver making it the deadliest distraction by far. The more you drive the more likely you can be distracted. But don't take my word for it, here are some stats to keep you engaged:
- In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers*
- 387,000 people were injured in 2011 by motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver*
- For drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent (that’s 1-in-5!) of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones*
- Engaging in visual/manual sub tasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times.*
- At any given moment during daylight hours, over 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone in the US.*
We continue to hurt and kill each other in ever-increasing numbers because we're too busy sending and reading tweets and texts. Is it worth it? Is your update worth a human life? Or ruining your own for killing someone? I'm not perfect, I listen to pod casts and answer phone calls from my family and loved ones while driving, but always with a headset. While distracted driving is still a danger with a headset, at least both hands are on the wheel.
To all those who persist in multitasking while driving I offer you this; you're playing with your life and the lives of all the others on the road. If you hurt or kill anyone I love or care about because you're too busy 'tweeting'–when I get to the pearly gates, I'm going to hunt you down and kick your ass. For all eternity.
* All stats pulled from: http://www.distraction.gov/ get informed and act like you know!