Most of us incorrectly assure ourselves that we can multi-task! After all, we can walk and chew gum at the same time! Right? When we stop and think about those activities – chewing gum and walking, we have to admit that walking is one of those things we do that requires very little brain power; in fact, it’s subconscious and nearly automatic. Unlike walking and chewing gum, both driving and using a cell phone require higher cognitive thinking. Your brain simply cannot perform two higher cognitive tasks at the same time. Instead, it must switch between the tasks, and that’s where we get into problems! With technology at their fingertips, drivers are constantly faced with distractions, such as talking or texting, which places their safety and that of others at serious risk.
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is launching the Talk. Text. Crash. campaign to raise awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving and to encourage Texans to put down their cell phones while driving.
Distracted driving is becoming increasingly common and dangerous, causing traffic crashes and fatalities. John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director says, “One in five traffic crashes in Texas is caused by a distracted driver, and last year 459 people were killed as a result.” In 2013, the number of Texas crashes involving distracted driving totaled 94,943, up 4% from the previous year.
Drivers can be distracted by conversing with other passengers, eating, smoking, manipulating dashboard controls, reaching for something in the vehicle, and talking or texting on a cell phone. Among the many distractions drivers face on the road, cell phone use is one of the most common and a major cause of distracted driving traffic accidents and fatalities.
While distractions affect drivers of all ages, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that hand-held cell phone use is highest among 16- to 24-year-olds. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted. In Texas, 46 percent of urban teens and 52 percent of rural teens talk on a cell phone while driving, and nearly the same percentage text while driving. (Texas A&M Transportation Institute).
Text messaging is particularly dangerous. New research conducted last year by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute showed reaction times double when drivers are distracted by text messaging. Additionally, sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.
This month is a great time to talk to your teenagers and family members about safe driving. Keep your eyes on the road and arrive alive!
For more information about Multi-tasking, check out this neat infographic from www.complianceandsafety.com