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The Epidemic Of Distracted Driving

The first car radios were installed in the 1930’s, since then the automobile industry, and third party manufacturers, have been looking for more and more ways to entertain, or should I say, distract  the driver and his passengers.   Providing entertainment for the automobile occupant has come a long way, with the eight track being one of the only bumps in the road.  We now have sixteen speaker stereo systems with booming bass tubes, MP3 player interface ports, DVD screens for every passenger, GPS devices, the list goes on and on.  Unfortunately distracted driving is now becoming a major problem in the United States.

Since people have been driving there has always been a distraction, be it food, a pet, a fellow passenger, or simply changing the radio station.  Up until now, nothing has been as disastrous as the habit of texting and/or emailing while driving, as far as driving distractions go.

It is doubtful that the hazard of texting while driving even occurred to the inventors of the “cell phone text”.  Perhaps they had more faith in mankind.   In a study conducted by Car and Driver in a June 2009 article, texting or emailing while driving is more hazardous than driving while intoxicated.  In a controlled deserted environment, the driver, Car and Driver editor, Eddie Alterman, had worse results texting and emailing as opposed to being legally intoxicated.  While travelling seventy MPH it took him .54 seconds to brake, legally drunk he added four feet, reading and email added thirty six feet, and sending a text resulted in a shocking seventy extra feet.

Unfortunately, the ever presence lack of human willpower seems to be winning.  Even with several states enacting texting while driving laws, the statistics are still there.  Many states report little changes in texting while driving activity improvement, many on the rise.  In a first for the state, Massachusetts convicted an eighteen year old for vehicular homicide for texting while driving and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, based on the law the state enacted in 2010.

How do we prevent this new epidemic when people, not just teenagers are addicted to their cell phones?  Some states are actually considering implementing cell phone “jammers” on stretches of highways.  That too has its drawbacks, especially if you are broken down at 1AM in the middle of nowhere.  Of course the most logical step is to just ignore it, the message can wait, but for the email addict it’s not quite that simple.  Are you just running to the store for five minutes?  You can simply leave your phone at home.  If you are on a longer trip, or you just simply can’t ignore your phone, or leave home without it, lock it in your truck or stow it away in the back seat until you arrive at your destination.   It is not that imperative that you know where your friend is in a casual situation.  What did you do 20 years ago?