According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration distracted driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.
Over the last few decades, outreach groups like MADD (Moms Against Drunk Driving), have created a social stigma and societal push back against drunk driving. And rightly so, as to purposefully dull your senses and take command of a machine that can harm yourself and others, you are taking a risk that should bear huge repercussions. Luckily, due to the hard work of these advocate groups, there has been a decline in fatalities related to drunk driving. Harsher punishments have been enacted, more convenient methods of transportation have been created (uber, lyft, etc), and more social awareness has led to a decrease in drunk driving.
However, while drunk driving is decreasing, distracted driving is on the rise.
Distracted driving is defined as any time you take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off your primary task: driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing. Distracted driving can be changing the radio station, fixing your lipstick, or eating a sandwich while driving. These actions cause drivers to miss key road changes and conditions which lead to more accidents and fatalities.
Around 20% of high schoolers said they have ridden with a drunk driver, while a full half of all adults and teenagers said that they have ridden in a car while the driver was texting. Even though distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, 44% of adults said they had been in a car when the driver “used the cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.”
If we compare distracted versus drunk driving, there are many similarities, the most important being a lack of awareness. When you’re inebriated, you lose the cognitive ability between recognizing a stopped vehicle and a moving one. When you’re texting and not looking at the road, you lose any capability of being aware. Between the two, reflexes are also inhibited. Either you’re slow because you’re intoxicated and clumsy, or you’re slow due to holding the steering wheel with one hand while holding a phone with the other, or looking away, and not concentrating on what’s around you.
The scariest part about distracted driving truly is the tolerance society has for it. When parents use their iPhones around their children, teenagers don’t bat an eyelash when their friends text and drive, and suddenly the vicious cycle repeats itself.
The research and the answer are out there. Distracted driving kills and is as hazardous as drunk driving. Now we need society to change its view and crackdown on those that drive distracted.
For information on distracted driving or to help with the campaign against it go to EndDD.org.
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