YOU WOULDN'T DRIVE DRUNK IN A SCHOOL ZONE, WOULD YOU?
Of course, you wouldn't. Yet, every day in Dallas and in the rest of the country, thousands of people engage in behavior that is just as risky and could be just as deadly.
The National Safety Council estimates that out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is due to distracted driving. This is not just texting and driving, but also includes looking at your phone for directions and talking on the phone as well. The NSC further estimates that cell phone usage while driving leads to over 1,500,000 crashes each year. Yet, every morning as we take our kids to school or pick them up in the afternoon, we see driver after driver looking down at their phones, looking at that quick email, or sending that quick text.
"I'll just send this quick text." However, looking down at a phone to send that quick text for 5 seconds in a car traveling at school zone speeds, that is the equivalent of a driver driving half a length of a football field with the driver's eyes closed. Add onto this the time it takes our brain to recognize a danger and react to it and you can see how dangerous this behavior is, especially in a school zone as children cross the street.
So, what does drunk driving and distracted driving have in common?
In 2011, a University of Utah study found that a distracted driver's judgment, speed, and reaction time was the same as a driver who had a blood alcohol content of .08. In other words, the study found that a distracted driver had the same driving impairment as a driver who was legally drunk. Moreover, the study found that this was true not only for texting and driving, but also for talking on a cell phone, even with a hands-free device. Even talking to someone on the phone diverts our mind's attention so much that it is the equivalent of driving legally drunk.
Distracted driving is especially a problem here in the DFW area. One survey found that of the DFW drivers they interviewed, almost 10% admitted to using their mobile devices while driving. And those are just the ones that admitted to the behavior, which is usually underreported. Lastly, in many cities in our area, usage of a handheld device at all -talking, texting, or looking for directions-is illegal and can result in a hefty fine.
With schools coming back and our little ones present again in school zones, now is the time for us to increase our vigilance and care in order to protect our kids.
There are many ways in which we can do this, such as placing the phone on a "do not disturb" setting. Most mobile devices have a "driving" mode that will delay delivery of text messages while driving. If you must answer a phone call, stop in a parking lot or side street so that you are not actively driving while talking.
The bottom line is that distracted driving remains a huge danger to others on the roadway and is especially dangerous in school zones this time of year. Summer is just long enough for us to forget about the school zones we pass through. Now that they are active again, we need to be ever more careful. Our kids are important enough that the call or text can wait.