Another learned study has come out, placing a large red circle around texting while driving. According to research conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute a driver is 23 times more likely to get into a car accident if they text while driving.
According to their research over 18 months, text messaging forced the driver’s eyes from the road for the longest period of time, about 4.6 seconds out of a six second interval. Doing some fast math (44 feet per second = 30 miles per hour) means someone texting while driving in the city, is not watching what they are doing for just over 200 feet, (202.4 if you want to get precise) or a tad over two-thirds of a North American football field.
Which makes sense. Texting calls for more visual acuity and dexterity than talking on a cell phone. What it really calls for is the complete redirection of the driver’s focus from driving to tapping the correct keys on a miniscule keypad to reply to the deeply important msg of u suk2 n ur mama iza ho.
I think we all understand, even with hands-free operation, simply talking on a cell phone is a dangerous distraction. Some studies have implied that being piss drunk while driving (+.08) or talking on the phone while driving is more or less the same thing when it comes to driver inattention. Both aren’t smart. Texting is even worse. However, it begs the question, what are we going to do about it?
Fourteen states and a handful of provinces have prohibited texting while operating a motor vehicle. Boston and Los Angeles commuter rail services have forbidden their operators from texting while operating their trains, as a result of two nasty crashes. The cause and effect of distracted driving is well known and well researched.
Driving home this evening from the office, I counted the nostrils of those with a cell phone in use while driving in Toronto rush hour traffic. After dividing by 2 (generally, two nostrils = one human) there were more than 100 drivers I was able to spot, driving one-handed with a phone glued to their heads. The distance from the office to the apartment? 15 kilometres. Or 6.6 morons per kilometre. 23,100 pounds of vaguely controlled motor vehicle per kilometre, using an average of 3,500 pounds per car.
Now on the scale of ‘truly dumb’, we need some context, something to compare with: Which is more dangerous to life, limb and reputation? (choose one)
A) Driving a car on the expressway while texting, handling phone calls and email. B) Engaging in an act of intimacy with a giraffe at the Metro Zoo, over the noon-hour with the media in attendance.
Either action can get you killed. Giraffes do kick. Reputation harm however, is a little more prominent if you’re on the noon news being led away by the police from the giraffe house. You’ll also get a free psychiatric evaluation, probation for a couple of years and quite possibly be studied by mental health professionals to see if you are as deeply twisted as your actions might indicate.
Getting a ticket from the police for using your phone while driving will cost you a couple of hundred bucks and some minor annoyance. This is assuming you don’t actually bang into something by running a red light and killing a family of four.
So which act is worse? It depends on the perspective of society. I humbly submit that relations with the giraffe is not the more ‘wrong’ act. At worst you become a social pariah, labelled as a very sick individual and are prohibited from going to the zoo.
Using your phone while driving means you’re a multi-tasking serious business person, plugged-in, focused on the bottom-line, customer first…yadda yadda yadda.
The giraffe relationship-artiste is not a well person by any measure. But the cell phone driver is actively going out of their way to provide a violent and potentially deadly threat to others with 3,500 pounds of rapidly moving steel. rubber, glass and plastic aimed by a clueless hump.
The giraffe lover is annoying the giraffe and wrecking their personal reputation, but not a whole lot more. I don’t know of anyone who has been killed, maimed, horrendously disfigured or permanently injured by someone who has banged a giraffe. Not that I know anyone who has, or would admit to it. I travel in mainstream society thanks.
A distracted driver? That would be a different question that is answered on the roads. Paramedics mop up the leftover parts every day.
Having been the owner of a cell phone for a number of years, my voice mail has always said “I can’t take your call right now, as I might be driving, teaching or in a meeting, but I will return your call as soon as possible.” I simply refuse to use my phone while driving. It’s too distracting and too dangerous.
If it is a ‘critical’ call, I put the phone down and pull over: Loop into a parking lot, or head for the roadway shoulder, get out of the way, stop, then talk. Realistically, there haven’t been that many ‘critical’ calls in the years of cell phone ownership, perhaps a dozen in fifteen years. It’s not like I have the only copy of the launch codes and NATO needs them immediately or the world will end.
Which comes back to our original story. Even deducting half for media inflation and fear-mongering headlines, someone texting while driving is (after the math) 11.5 times more likely to get into a car accident than someone who isn’t.
Hang up: It isn’t that important. Or go to the zoo around noon.
At least at the zoo you won’t be hurting anyone but yourself.