Daily people tell me that they often see drivers, especially teens, using their cell phones to send text messages while driving.
I can’t begin to explain how dangerous this practice is for the driver who is texting—and for the rest of us!
Driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).The NHTSA reports that sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, at 55 mph, that is the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field while blindfolded.
At any given moment, approximately 660,000 U.S. drivers are driving blind because they are using their cell phones, according to NHTSA. The results are deadly: 3,328 were killed in distracted-driving crashes in 2012.
Texting has become so ingrained with younger people, research shows they feel obligated to send and read text messages, even while driving. Nearly 80 percent of teens and young adults admit to reading text messages behind the wheel. Some would even say that texting while driving is no longer a trend – it has become a national epidemic.
Drivers assume they can handle texting while driving and remain safe, but the numbers don’t lie.
Here are a few facts about texting while driving:
• Texting makes you 23 times more likely to be in a collision
• A single text message is the same as driving with your eyes closed for five seconds
• More than 100,000 people a year are injured or killed as a result of a collision
To help stop texting while driving, the NHTSA is teaming with law enforcement agencies to combat distracted driving. Their new campaign theme is called "U Drive. U Text. U Pay."
Here in Mendocino County, texting is expensive.
If an officer catches you or your teenager using a cell phone while driving, the first offense will cost $196 in traffic court fines. A second offense will cost $367 in traffic court fines.
Still, the cost of these tickets is small compared to the costs from injuries and deaths associated with distracted driving.
To fully understand the cost, I recommend you and the teenage drivers in your household watch a powerful video called AT&T The Last Text Documentary. It’s posted on the UPD website. If it affects you the way it affected me, please share it with all the teenage drivers you know. I really believe this video will have a bigger impact on your teenager’s safety than all the statistics or lectures in the world.
Some say this video is too hard to watch. Your teen driver may think he or she doesn’t need to watch a video because they have everything under control. You may hear, “Don’t worry, I know how to multi-task,” or “I send thousands of texts a day. I’ve got this.” Potentially, you then get the eye roll with, “Oh, Mom…” or “Oh, Dad, I’ll be fine.” Maybe worst of all, your teenager tells you they don’t text while driving (even if they do).
Even if all that happens – and you already know your teenager honestly doesn’t text while driving – please watch this video anyway!
The video is only ten minutes long. It was created by AT&T, and it shares stories of people who are living with the results of texting-related accidents. This video has been watched millions of times, and provides real lessons about texting and driving. I was really moved by this video. I know that if you watch it, you’ll feel the same way and you, too, will want to tell others about it.
If a ten minute video is too long, you might instead watch the latest video ad about distracted driving at www.distraction.gov. At this website, you can also find helpful information for parents and teenagers about the dangers of driving distracted.
Getting a driver’s license can be one of the greatest joys in a young person’s life, but the first year behind the wheel can be one of the most dangerous. Knowing what the most common driving errors are and finding ways to prevent them before a collision occurs is very important.
A recent study found that 75 percent of serious teen crashes were due to a critical teen driver error, with three common errors accounting for nearly half of all serious crashes:
• Driving too fast for road conditions
• Being distracted
• Failing to detect a hazard
To reduce teenage accidents, parents can help teens understand these safety points:
• Speed management – This includes always following the speed limit, as well as knowing when to adjust your speed: in congested zones and residential areas, during inclement weather, and on poorly lit roads.
• Recognizing and avoiding distractions – This means limiting the number of peer passengers, having a no cell phone or electronic device rule, and lowering radio volume.
• Scanning for hazards – This involves observing the surroundings far ahead of the vehicle and side-to-side, so that you have sufficient warning to react and avoid a potential crash.
One sure way to avoid traffic accidents is to keep our eyes on the road.
I know you would never close your eyes and drive around town, and you’d never tell your teenager it’s safe to drive with their eyes closed. Yet, if someone texts while driving, they’re doing exactly that – closing their eyes to what’s right in front of them – driving blind.
Texting while driving is extremely dangerous. Please talk to your teens and encourage them to put their cell phones away while driving, and then be sure to practice what you preach. We must do all we can to make Ukiah a safe community.
No text is worth the risk. Whatever message you were going to send, it can wait!
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.