A new study is out that confirms a rising trend: This will just take a seven…salmon…(damn you, autocorrect)… This will just take a second —
Texting and driving don’t mix.
Despite widespread awareness of the dangers that distracted driving can cause, and despite horrific viral video campaigns that will make you wish for a real-life “undo” button, drivers continue to text behind the wheel.
The new research, conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, shows that the number of people who thumb messages or email from the driver’s seat has risen 50% over the past year.
So why the disconnect between the absolute sheer danger and the real-life behavior? You might think, as with most tragic events, people erroneously think it can’t happen to them. But that’s not quite it. What’s happening, the researchers believe, is that people just seem to think they’re better drivers than everyone else, and they can handle the additional distraction — but the other guy can’t.
“Everyone thinks he or she is an above average driver — it’s all the nuts out there who need educating,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
But I’m willing to bet Mitt Romney $10,000 that there’s also some deeper psychological phenomenon at stake, and I hope that will be the next research study the government undertakes. My hypothesis is that there is some sort of addictive rush that comes from sending and receiving messages. Something chemical in the brain that creates an urge too great to put off, despite intellectually knowing the dangers. That could explain why so many people support laws banning texting while driving (now illegal in 35 states), yet so many continue to do it.
Some of the other findings from the government study:
- 90% said that when they are passengers they feel very unsafe if the driver is texting or emailing.
- In 2010 there were an estimated 3,092 deaths in crashes affected by a wide range of driver distractions.
- Big majorities of drivers surveyed support bans on hand-held cellphone use and texting while driving — 71 percent and 94 percent, respectively, yet 20% of all drivers and 50% of drivers 21 to 24 years old regularly text or email while driving.
If these numbers aren’t enough to jolt you into changing your behavior, perhaps the video below will. (Fair warning: it’s very difficult to watch.)
And that’s why one of my 2012 New Year’s resolutions is to put the kibosh on cell phone distractions in my car. That means, no texting, no browsing, no Words with Friends.
It can, and it will, wait.