In the United States, 9 people on average are killed every day as a result of distracted driving, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Distracted driving occurs when a person engages in any kind of activity that competes with their ability to focus on the road. This can include seemingly benign actions, such as speaking with a passenger or drinking coffee. An electronic device that distracts the driver (cell phone, GPS) can be more dangerous though, because those objects require the use of the driver’s visual, manual and cognitive skills. When the driver is focusing those skills on something other than the road, the results can be deadly.
Texting While Driving
Relative to the distraction trifecta – cognitive, visual and manual – there is no worst offender than the cell phone, especially when it’s used for texting while driving. When a driver chooses to send a text message, his or her eyes are off the road for an average of just under 5 seconds, and his hands, mind and eyes are otherwise engaged. To put this into perspective, imagine driving the length of a football field at a rate of 55 MPH, while blindfolded. That is what it’s like, and that type of ‘blindfolded’ distracted driving helped cause 387,000 injuries and 3,300 deaths in 2011.
The National Safety Council estimates that about every 30 seconds a car accident is caused by a driver using a cell phone to send or read a text or place a call. That’s over one million preventable car accidents every year. If the cell phone distracts the driver, it should be turned off or put away.
For those who can’t stand to be out of reach, there are apps available that can help you stay connected without ever having to touch the phone while driving. Here are a few:
- Road Wars: This app was created with teens in mind, but anyone with a love for gaming will find it appealing. Available for iOS only, the idea behind Road Wars is to earn points (which convert to coins) for good driving and to ‘capture’ roads based on the fact that they were driven well. Coins are lost for using the phone for any reason, speeding, swerving and other bad driving habits. The social aspect of the game comes into play when the driver sees which roads their friends have captured. Through the luck and skill-type games on the app, the roads other people have captured can be taken.
- Safely Go: Designed for drivers of all ages, the Safely Go app is unique in that it doesn’t shut off communication from everyone. While the user is driving, he or she can make hands free calls, and there is also an option to allow calls and texts from 3 contacts, such as his or her spouse, boss or child. Everyone else receives an automatic voice or text response, which can be personalized. Additionally, while driving, the user can access to 3 apps, like music and maps.
- DriveSafe.ly: With the DriveSafe.ly app, the user hears incoming texts and emails in real time, and an auto response is sent without the driver having to do a thing. The app’s auto-responder is customizable, and it’s compatible with Bluetooth and the radio transmitter in the vehicle.
Drivers using their cell phones while behind the wheel create an unnecessarily deadly hazard for themselves and anyone else on the road. More specifically, texting while driving distracts the driver so much that it increases his or her risk of causing an accident by 23 times. The best bet to avoid becoming the cause of a distracted driving car accident is to simply shut off your phone. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, install a safe driving app and use it. You’ll never know how many lives you might save by doing it, but that’s a good thing.