By Azure Wedan
I still recall so many details: my knees locking while both feet forced the brake down, the sound of the screeching rubber on the hot asphalt, my hands white-knuckled and sweaty against the steering wheel, and the moment of panic and defeat once I realized I had nowhere to go except into the rear end of the car stopped ahead of me. While all this happened, in each drawn-out and horrifying second, I knew the accident was my fault.
Texting while driving is a national epidemic affecting each of us on the road. Even if you are a driver who refrains from messaging or being distracted, chances are a driver near you is distracted.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent study about the frequency of distractions while driving shows 52 percent of U.S. drivers age 18-29 reported texting or emailing while driving at least once in the last 30 days, and more than a quarter report texting or emailing “regularly” or “fairly often” while driving.
These statistics show distracted driving is a common practice, and I have to assume it stems from some form of mentality that suggests: “It won’t happen to me I’m too aware.” Well, join the club. According to a 2011 Harris Poll, 57 percent of drivers rated themselves as better than the average driver. Plainly put, texting while driving is like driving blind. Your eyes are not on the road. With so many factors around you: other drivers, hazardous road conditions, construction – I’m looking at you, Interstate Highway 635 – and daily stressors, motorists are already dealing with a lot that can keep their minds off the task at hand. Add to that trying to convey a message one-handed across, at most, a four-by-six inch screen, and it becomes significantly more difficult.
According to the National Highway Transportation Administration, texting while driving makes a person 23 times more likely to crash. Texting and driving is about six percent more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated.
The NHTSA said that texting while driving is equivalent to driving after consuming four beers. Yet we are a population of people who aren’t getting the message. There are 1.6 million accidents per year caused by the “intexticated” driver, according to the National Safety Council. This is an outrage!
While I can’t turn back time and prevent the day I found it so important to send that message, keeping myself and the poor woman in front of me safe, I can take strides to raise awareness and use my position as a writer to send out a call to action. We need to hang up and drive. Put away the distractions. Turn the phone to silent, leave it in your purse or put it on the backseat facedown if you need to. Trust me, the message can wait, but this one – a message to keep each other out of harm’s way – cannot. Be safe out there, and enjoy your Spring Break road trips free from any texting distractions.