Would you down 4 beers and slide behind the wheel of your car, ready to start a family vacation or simply pick the kids up from swimming lessons? Of course not. But if you’re texting while driving — even just a little — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you’re just as physically impaired as if you’d polished off those 4 drinks before grabbing the keys. And that makes you 23% more likely to crash.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, of the 3,534 motor vehicle crash deaths in 2014 (the most recent full year for which data is available) there were:
- 1,041 people killed in alcohol-related crashes (down 2.62% from 2013)
- 483 killed in distracted driving crashes (up 4% from 2013)
And, as a side note because it surprised us, nearly 44% of those who died weren’t wearing seat belts.
While drunk driving still kills more Texans annually, the numbers have been decreasing for several years (hooray!), unlike distracted driving, which is on the rise. And come on, people, really, seat belts? Text yourself a reminder to buckle up. Just be sure you read it before leaving the driveway.
Who’s driving distracted?
These days, drivers who do nothing but sit behind the wheel with their hands at 10 and 2 are few and far between, but there is a group that has a tougher time keeping their hands on the steering wheel. According to the NHTSA:
- Teenage drivers 15 to 19 years old have the highest percentage of distracted driving fatalities
- Drivers in their 20s represent
- 27% of all distracted drivers
- 38% of distracted drivers using cell phones at the time of a crash fatality
- Since 2007, young drivers (16-24) have been observed using electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers
- At any given daylight moment in the U.S., approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices while driving
Obviously, young people need help staying off their phones and on the road. Just tell them to:
- Turn mobile phones to silent when driving
- Put mobile phones out of reach (in the trunk or glovebox, for example)
- Or better yet, completely turn their mobile phones off
Because that’s what you do, right? Unless you’re modeling this behavior for your kids, these suggestions will likely fall on deaf ears. In fact, what are you modeling? How many of these (answer truthfully) have you done while driving?
- Using a cell phone, smartphone or tablet
- Eating or drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Fixing hair and makeup
- Brushing teeth
- Changing clothes
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player
While texting is by far the most serious because it requires using your eyes, hands and brain, all of these (and more) equal distracted driving and impair to some degree your ability to drive safely.
Just ask Matt Carrick, MD, Trauma Medical Director at Medical City Plano, who treats patients who’ve both caused and been the victim of distracted driving. He says the average driver who sends a text glances at their phone for 5 seconds, during which time the car, at 55 mph, will travel the length of a football field. Scary, right?
Do these 5 and stay alive.
Here are 5 more things you can do to keep yourself and your young drivers from getting distracted:
- We weren’t kidding — model safe behavior — no cell phone use at all
- Seriously, turn it off or put it out of reach
- Make calls and text only after pulling over
- Download a deterrent app, such as LifeSaver Distracted Driving
- Enter your destination in your GPS before starting to drive, and if alone, use one with voice prompts
- Know which Texas cities have cell phone ordinances that could cost you big in fines
- Take our pop quiz on texting and driving
Medical City Healthcare wants you to drive safely, but if distracted driving ruins your day, it’s a relief to know there are 17 emergency locations with FastERTX average wait times posted online. Visit FastERTX.com to find the ER nearest you.