A Discussion on the Dangers of Texting and Driving

When I get into my car every morning, I connect my phone to the radio via Bluetooth. I cannot drive without music. After I’ve selected the playlist I feel that day, I put my phone down to back out of my driveway, but it’s already taken some of my concentration before I reach the first stop sign. I got a text message. Like most of us, I have to check it, but I’m careful, so it’s safe, right? Not necessarily. This is the world we live in. People are so memorized by their phones and the thought that someone wants to communicate with them that it’s almost uncontrollable.

My whole life I was drilled about the consequences of distracted driving. “Never text and drive,” they said. I have been a licensed driver for over three years now and those talks didn’t help much. I still multitask when I drive. I usually talk on the phone when I drive because my house is small so there isn’t much privacy and I would rather be watching television than be on the phone.

Some people text and drive because they actually believe that they are important enough that they can’t miss a text message, but “the truth is nobody is that important or that in demand that they can’t practice safety and good commonsense behaviors,” says Dr. Debra Condren, a business psychologist and executive.

I think that the people who realize that their texts aren’t important compared to someone else’s life text and drive because it is an addiction that is hard to overcome. “There’s this sense that we’re so important that every single moment has to be filled; we can’t even pull over or we’re going to miss five minutes of driving time or 10 minutes of driving time. The pace is at this breakneck speed,” says Condren. I think it is ridiculous that people think that they are important enough to put lives in danger just so they can text. That is a really selfish way to think and it makes us sound completely vain. There is always someone in a suit, heading to work, on their blackberry. The priorities we make for ourselves have changed so much since the invention of smart phones.

I try to be like Karen North, who was interviewed by CNN. She has her teenage children answer her texts while she drives. I usually have my girlfriend text someone while I am driving us somewhere, but not every time like I should.

I’m not making excuses for my actions, but I text and drive because I like to be connected to others. I enjoy the company of talking to someone, even if it’s through texting. I don’t think it’s very safe, but it’s a habit. I get frustrated when I see people on their phones and they’re not even paying attention to the road. I usually try to text at stoplights or when I am not in traffic, but it doesn’t always work that way. Every once in a while, I find myself putting my life or the lives of others at risk, so I will either put my phone down or hand it to my passenger.

The CDC conducted a survey and found that “31 percent of U.S. drivers ages 18-64 reported that they had read or sent text messages or email messages while driving at least once within the 30 days before they were surveyed,” which is a decent amount of people texting and driving but I wonder if the CDC clarified with the people interviewed if they were stopped at a traffic light, stop sign, or if they pulled over while sending the texts.

The statistics involving distracted drivers that I have found in my research do not surprise me at all. Every time I am in my car, I either text while driving or I see multiple people doing it. I often find myself avoiding the other drivers because they are not paying attention. They seem to be talking on the phone more than texting but it is still a common issue.

I believe we all use our phones while driving because we live in a time where, according to Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry at UCLA, “we want to stay connected” and some people actually feel anxious without their phones. I am one of those people that get anxious without my phone and it’s not something I am proud of. I use my phone as a child would use a security blanket. It is my escape from awkward and uncomfortable situations.

The CDC reported that distracted drivers kill 9 people and injured 1,060 people, roughly, every day. This is a wakeup call for me because I didn’t realize that so many people died each day from distracted driving. They also found that 69 percent of the people interviewed stated that they talk on the phone while driving. Although that is a high percentage, I do not think talking on the cell phone should be such a big issue because a simple Bluetooth device could reduce the distraction.

It’s very sad that so many deaths and injuries have occurred just because someone else was paying more attention to their phone than the road. The quick and firm statement “on the road, off the phone” is the best way to simplify the conversation with people about texting and driving. There has been research that proves teens are a big part of the problem but people point fingers real quick at my generation before they look at their own faults, which is wrong.

I didn’t realize that texting and driving would cause a driver to be 23 times more likely to crash, according to Snyder, who is an accident attorney. I figured it probably quadrupled your chances of having a crash, but that is scary. I believe that talking on the cell phone is a big issue but it can be worked around. They have Bluetooth headsets, head units, and devices that will clip to the sun visor. I think that if people weren’t so stubborn about purchasing the devices, accidents wouldn’t happen so much because of talking on the cell phone.

In my research, I found out that when we send a text, we typically look at our phones long enough to travel the length of a football field. I have had instances like this where I found myself far away from my last position which I can remember on the road because I was texting. I will glance back and forth between the road and my phone so much that I only remember enough to know that the road is clear. I do not remember anything else about it.

It’s obvious that teens make up a large portion of distracted drivers but I feel like people are very quick to put all of the blame on young kids instead of looking at the general population. Snyder’s statistics state that “one-fourth of teenagers respond to at least one text message every time they drive and 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents report having multi-message text conversations while driving.” I noticed that they have the statistics on distracted driving for teens and parents but not a specific group of adults without children. Are they more likely to text and drive because they don’t have to set an example?

Anthony Perry, a Washington business man, told CNN that he is not “that good at texting and driving, but he does it anyway.” I am not shocked in any way that Perry said that he sends text messages while driving, knowing the risks, and knowing that he isn’t good at multitasking. People, including myself, consistently text while driving, and we know the risks that we are imposing on ourselves, our loved ones, and people we don’t even know driving next to us, but we feel like our text are more important than they actually are. We don’t want to miss something exciting and be disappointed about it. I know that this statement sounds ridiculous but I really struggle with it. I try to only text at stop lights but it isn’t always possible.

According to Paul Samakow, an attorney who wrote an article for the Washington Times Communities, “the reason texting while driving is so dangerous is because it involves three out of three types or categories of distracted driving, while being under the influence of alcohol or marijuana only distracts the driver in two ways.” I always thought that driving while intoxicated was the most dangerous thing you could do because your judgment is not reliable when you are drunk. But the dangers of texting and driving makes more sense now because I had never heard of the three different categories of distracted driving, but I am still not convinced that driving while intoxicated isn’t as dangerous as texting and driving.

In his newspaper article, attorney Samakow states that “statistics tell us the number of collisions, injuries, deaths, and financial costs to society support the conclusion that texting while driving is on the increase. Drunk driving statistics in all these categories are mixed, but overall are decreasing.” I can see how texting and driving injuries and fatalities are rising because even though it has been an issue for quite some time now, texting and driving is still a fairly new problem. Driving under the influence has been around long enough to hit its peak and die down because most people are realizing that it is really dangerous and there are also many consequences to a having a DUI on your driving record because it has the potential to be a felony.

I am frightened by the thought of how dangerous driving is because according to Samakow “driving a car is something that most of us do many times each day. But for that reason, we forget how truly demanding it is to drive safely, while we believe we are the best driver. We, particularly teens, believe we are invincible, and that tragedy will not strike us,” and your life is not only in your hands but in the hands of the drivers around you as well. I believe that if we all imagined our loved ones crying around our hospital bed or grave that we would think twice before texting and driving.

I believe that students who text while driving aren’t as cautious as students who don’t, but on the contrary, I do text while driving sometimes, but I’m cautious enough to speak up if the driver of the vehicle was driving erratically. And I also would never let an intoxicated person drive away, much less actually get into their vehicle with them.

I have come to the realization that because, as Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry at UCLA, puts it “our brains are hardwired to text,” we text and drive because we want to feel connected to others and we are ignorant of how likely it is that we will cause an accident.

Even with all the statistics and stories thrown at us, we will only stop one by one as we begin to have our own personal experiences because most people don’t believe statistics until they are a statistic. The only major experience I have had from texting and driving is a rear end collision where I was at fault. It was a minor collision, I had absolutely no damage to my vehicle, but my insurance company is now being sued for “personal injuries,” which they know are fake but it can’t be proven, and my premiums have increased. I have learned from my mistake and I am trying to stop texting while I drive. Although it is hard to break the habit, I have to because I can’t afford another accident, and I couldn’t live with myself if I harmed someone.

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