By Francesca Toledo
We’re all guilty of it – texting and driving. Although some of us realize the risks of doing so, others don’t see what can possibly come out of texting behind the wheel. When we all began driving, we were taught to keep both hands on the wheel and our eyes on the road at all times. It seems some have forgotten these rules, and make unsafe exceptions to keep one hand on the wheel and the other holding a phone.
I was once in the car with a friend when we were both about 17 (and still fairly inexperienced drivers), when I noticed she seemed to be extremely distracted by her phone. I then asked why she didn’t just put the phone down and pay full attention to the road. To this she answered “I have a method – I switch between keeping my eyes 5 seconds on my phone, and 10 seconds on the road. I’m paying attention, I swear.” Needless to say I had plenty of opinions of her precarious “method.” She, like most texters, think they drive perfectly fine while texting and driving.
Like my friend, many people justify their texting and driving with “methods” and excuses. These include holding the phone up closer to the windshield for increased “visibility,” increasing following distance, texting only at stop signs or red lights, so on. While some might think these ideas are fantastic and decrease their chances of getting into an accident, think again – just the fact that 100% a person’s attention isn’t placed on the road is a problem.
The average amount of time your eyes are taken off the road while texting and driving is 5 seconds.* One might think 5 seconds is nothing, but in all reality, things on the road can happen in a split second. If you’re going at about 55 MPH, 5 seconds is the equivalent of driving an entire football field without looking.* When we think about it like this, we realize the severity of taking our eyes off the road for a “mere” 5 seconds.
And the risk isn’t even completely with texting itself – it’s talking on the phone as well. The simple act of dialing a phone number isn’t so simple when you’re trying to multitask. Dialing a phone makes it 2.8 times more likely you’ll get into an accident. * Reaching for a device is also exceptionally dangerous, since we completely stop paying attention altogether. This raises our chances of getting into an accident by 1.4 times.
So what can be done? Certain states have already started implementing no texting and driving laws, but their effectiveness is questionable. In Florida, my home state, for example, a law was just recently enforced pertaining to texting and driving. But many have argued the law is exceptionally weak; police officers cannot stop anyone if they only suspect the person of texting – they must have another reason to stop them. Stricter laws need to be put in place. The lives of many are put at risk when one person decides to make the selfish decision of texting and driving.
I believe there should be a device that can be hooked up to the car diagnostic port, and another device or app on the smartphone. When the car is in drive, texting capabilities should be disabled. This would force everyone to keep eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, and would in turn prevent more careless accidents. Laws can only do so much – there will always be those that think they can get away with anything. Such devices and technological advances like these wouldn’t give people a choice; laws would have to be followed.
In 2011, at least 23% of accidents involved cell phones – that’s 1.3 million crashes.* Many, if not all, of these accidents could have been completely avoided if one person would’ve put down the phone and given the road their full attention. Texting and driving has to be put to a stop… Where there’s a will, there’s a way.