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The Latest Vehicular Danger: Distracted Drivers

 Five teenage girls were enroute to a school athletic function. They were all chattering away, both with their friends in the car and on their cellular telephones. The driver was even texting to her boyfriend, whom she expected to meet at the game. The car was traveling too fast, but not so fast that the driver couldn’t have reacted in time had she not been multi-tasking. She pulled out to pass a slower moving tractor-trailer just as she was sending a text and ran head-on into a loaded dump truck coming the other way. All five girls were killed, snuffed out before their lives had really begun. The oldest was sixteen and the youngest was fifteen and all were dead.


According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cell phone use is responsible for 28% of the traffic collisions. Many people assume that hand-held phones are the culprit, but testing has shown that regardless of whether the driver is using a handheld or hands-free device, their reaction times are equally diminished. The real culprit is a distraction of any sort. Extensive testing has shown that the human mind is not capable of focusing on more than one thing at a time, despite what busy executives would have you believe. Multi-tasking just isn’t humanly possible, not with full attention to any of the tasks being undertaken. The report says that cell phone users are four times more likely to crash than a driver who is not distracted. Quite simply, driving should occupy 100% of the driver’s attention and any fractional reduction of that is courting disaster.


The younger the driver, the more likely they are to be on their cell phone. Eighty-nine percent of teenagers admitted they used their phones while driving. At that age we all think we are bulletproof and immortal, but we aren’t. Not only do teenagers lack the experience and skills, but they are more likely to be driving distracted. It is more a matter of luck rather than skill, when they avoid a vehicular collision while using their cellular for talking or texting. Thirty-six percent of the teens surveyed admitted to texting while driving. Texting not only distracts their attention, but it diverts their eyes from the road.


Many jurisdictions are banning the use of any hand-held cellular phone while driving. Some of them are even banning all cellular usage by the driver while the vehicle is moving. What is the answer? Should there be a device on vehicles that blocks cell phone use? This would probably not be well accepted by most and viewed as just more governmental intervention in our lives. Much like smoking, everyone knows that it is harmful, but people still light up. But, something has to be done.