By: Molly M. Tompson
Distracted driving happens every single day. And with advancements in science and the safety of driving and cars, it should seem like the number of fatalities and injuries caused by driving should be declining. As a young driver, I have always been absolutely terrified to even glance at my phone behind the wheel, and it has honestly never occurred to me to start texting behind the wheel. While walking or driving, I notice people every day with their noses buried in their phones and a hand simultaneously, yet absently on the steering wheel. In the past 50 years or so, the safety of motor vehicles has improved vastly; from a time where no one wore seat belts (and some cars didn’t even have any!) to now, where people have to pay fines for not wearing them, we were heading in the right direction for a long time.
Image Found Here
Some questions I had about distracted driving include:
- Are cell phones reversing our progress in driving safety?
- How well can humans actually multitask?
- While teenagers are the main scapegoats in this mess, is there actually a correlation between age and tendency to text and drive?
- Is texting while driving the most dangerous form of impaired driving?
My hypothesis is that, yes, cell phones are causing car crashes, injuries, and deaths to increase. And I do not think that teenagers are the only group that texts and drives, but that adults are equally as guilty of distracted driving as them. And I think that other means of impaired driving, like drunk driving, might be more dangerous.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, almost 3200 people were killed in 2014 due to distracted driving, and over 400,000 were injured. 34% of Americans admitted to texting while driving, according to This Infographic. This Infographic also shows that about half of all children have been in the car while a driver was texting, and almost 1/5 of them have seen their parents do it!
So can humans actually multitask?
Neuroscientist Earl Miller from MIT says that humans can’t actually focus on multiple things at once. They can actually just switch what they’re focusing on very quickly. At the University of Michigan (boo!) a study was conducted on a main and his brain responses were analyzed. He was simply overwhelmed and could not multitask. Multitasking is, plainly, not really do-able. We can immediately change what we are focusing on, but we can not focus on two things to once.
Here are a few things I learned Here and in a couple of other places cited below:
- Teenagers are actually the #1 culprit of texting while driving. Thanks for the bad reputation, everyone.
- Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while drunk. That is really, really scary.
- Texting and driving is actually like driving while blind.
- It is not just texting that distracts people who are driving. People scroll through their facebook, instagram, snapchat and twitter feeds, play games, check their emails, and browse the web while behind the wheel (information found on CNN)
- Psychological studies have shown that the people who think they’re good at multitasking are actually the worst at it, according to Fox News. And there is actually a neurochemical in our brains that makes us feel good when we check our phones, even though we know it’s dangerous while we’re driving. It is like an addiction.
I was a little bit right in my notions, but mostly wrong. I was right, obviously, in thinking that distracted driving increases injury and death. However, I didn’t know that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. I thought humans might be able to multitask a bit, and that teens were not actually the worst in terms of texting and driving. But I was wrong about all of the above.
So, moral of the story is, no one–teens, young adults, or even those who remember life before the cell phone should not be on the phone at all while they drive. These distractions are doing nothing but harm to us. With people dying daily in fatal car crashes caused by texting and driving, it is an epidemic that must stop. Perhaps stricter laws or ways to monitor this should be established. This is a very, very serious issue.