PSA: Friends don't let friends drive and text

8 years ago
PSA: Friends don't let friends drive and text

This is a post I've wanted to write for a while. Let me just get it out there, in all my inflammatory, scare-tactic glory:


Yeah, it is.

it's not exactly a surprise that it's dangerous in the first place. The
whole introduction to a telephone in the car hasn't been the best idea
we've ever had. Wasn't applying makeup and swatting at the kids enough?

Mechanics of Attention:

all know that sensation of chatting with a friend in the car and
looking back up to the road and not really remembering the past few
miles. That's because language – talking and listening, including on a cell phone – interferes with visual tasks, such as driving.
Add having to also visualize the person, as on a cell phone, and we've
now split our mental resources even more and that leaves even less for
paying attention to our surroundings. It's a lethal combination,
killing, some say, up to 2600 people a year, and that's a number from 2002. Do you really need to complete that call? Is it worth it?

Chatting And Driving

Talking on a cell phone makes a 20 year old's reactions about on par with that of a 70 year old's.

Yeah, for real. And it gets even better.

A University of Utah study found that:

  • Motorists
    who talked on either handheld or hands-free cell phones drove slightly
    slower, were 9 percent slower to hit the brakes, displayed 24 percent
    more variation in following distance as their attention switched
    between driving and conversing, were 19 percent slower to resume normal
    speed after braking and were more likely to crash. Three study
    participants rear-ended the pace car. All were talking on cell phones.
    None were drunk.
  • Drivers drunk at the 0.08 percent
    blood-alcohol level drove a bit more slowly than both undistracted
    drivers and drivers using cell phones, yet more aggressively. They
    followed the pace car more closely, were twice as likely to brake only
    four seconds before a collision would have occurred, and hit their
    brakes with 23 percent more force. “Neither accident rates, nor
    reaction times to vehicles braking in front of the participant, nor
    recovery of lost speed following braking differed significantly” from
    undistracted drivers, the researchers write.

associated with using a cell phone while driving can be as profound as
those associated with driving while drunk,” they conclude.

you might as well have a glass of wine (or two, or however many it
takes to get you to .08) and hop in the car with your kids. It's about
the same. And of course, as a responsible, super safe parent, you'd
never swig a glass of wine and jump behind the wheel.

And here's
the thing, I don't think I'm telling you anything you haven't already
read, experienced first hand, or thought about yourself regarding your
cell phone. What you may not know is that texting while driving exceeds even these deplorable stats.

Might As Well Drive Blindfolded:

Currently, the number of deaths caused by texting while driving are anecdotal, but increasing nonetheless. We all read about the train conductor who ran his train afoul while texting. His intense need to text ultimately killed 25 people. Like so many others (like her or him or these guys)
who are simply not paying attention to anything but their little hand
held device and they end up ruining their lives and taking someone

Study after study
find that texting lengthens response times significantly more than just
talking on the phone or even being inebriated or high. In my opinion, I
might as well drive blindfolded; I'd have about the same luck.

What's To Be Done?

So far,

states have banned text messaging for all drivers: Alaska, California,
Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Virginia, and
Washington. The District of Columbia also bans all drivers from

In addition, novice drivers are banned from texting
in nine states: Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina,
Oregon, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

School bus drivers are banned from text messaging in Arkansas, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

For more state-by-state information on cell-phone laws, see Cell Phone Laws.

Hands-Free Is Safer, Right??

You may have use of both of your hands now, which is a slight
improvement, but you're still using most of your mental energy for the
call, not the driving. In the war for your attention, the conversation
naturally wins out. It's just how we're wired.

A researcher recently surveyed

current scientific research on cellphone use, showing that talking on
the phone, regardless of phone type, has negative impacts on
performance, especially when the driver is confronted by complex or
unpredictable situations. Performance while using a hands-free phone
was rarely found to be better than that using a hand-held phone.


studies found drivers compensate for the harmful effects of cellphone
use when using a hand-held phone—by driving slower or pulling over to
finish a call—but neglect to do so when using a hands-free phone.

Oy. I know a lot of states require a hands-free device, but that's still not enough.

What To Do?

Again, I think it's common sense and here's my extensive list on what should be done about it:

  • Turn your phone OFF, don't even have it on so you might be tempted to answer a call or a text.
  • Keep it in place that's not convenient, and oh yeah, turn it OFF.
  • Tell
    anyone and everyone who might be texting, Tweeting, FBing, emailing,
    calling, or otherwise trying to reach you that you have a rule: I TURN MY PHONE OFF WHEN DRIVING, THEREFORE I WILL GET BACK TO YOU WHEN IT IS SAFE TO DO SO.
  • If
    you are going to use your phone for good (i.e., report the domestic
    abuse you just witnessed, or the writhing deer or gopher in the ditch)
    pull over first. Then turn your phone back OFF.
  • Threaten
    your teens with certain death (no pun intended) if they decide to text
    while driving or otherwise use their phone while driving. Then tell
    them to TURN IT OFF.
  • Really challenge yourself to unplug for the time in your car. Turn YOURSELF off. It's a treat.

not perfect and I don't claim to follow my own rules all the time, but
I WANT TO. I was one of the last people I know to hold out on the cell
phone thing, so communicating in the car was usually kept to a person
to person activity or me singing along to the radio up until fairly

I admit that it is a sexy thing to keep in touch and up to date constantly on all things social (which is another post entirely). But please, PLEASE, stop. It could ruin your life, your baby's, someone else's baby's.
You could be responsible for someone's death because you had to tell a
friend you just bought an awesome pair of shoes on sale. Just think
about it.

Note: While trying
to find an image for this post I Googled "texting while driving" and
clicked on Images. I inadvertently saw one of the most gruesome things
I've ever seen of a person's (sex was unidentifiable) mangled bottom
half being held by two rescue workers. I mention this only because I
want this to become real to people. Not just some chick ranting on and
on and including a dozen links. I had to cover the image with my hand
while I tried to click away, but it was too late. I'll never forget
that image.)

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