Fear the phone: the dangers of distracted driving
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As Courtney Diehl ’18 rounded the corner in her car, her cell phone fell from its usual resting place in her car’s cup holder. As she reached down to pick it up, she was going too fast without looking and she slammed into a telephone pole, totalling her car and trapping her inside.
“That all happened within three seconds,” Diehl said about her accident. “The feeling is terrifying.” Diehl’s story is not uncommon. In fact, distracted driving has become a killer amongst teenagers.
The National Safety Council (NSC) deemed April National Distracted Driving Awareness month.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website almost 3,500 people died last year from being distracted while behind the wheel. And more importantly, auto accidents are the number one killer for teenagers.
Distracted driving is defined as anything that takes a driver’s attention away from the road, like texting, updating social media, talking on the phone, watching videos or eating.
“Teenagers are already at a disadvantage because they are inexperienced. Add into that equation a distraction like a phone or a text message and it’s a recipe for disaster. Driving a car safely requires both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel,” Mike Austin said. Mike is the Editor in Chief of Autoblog.com, one of the biggest automotive websites in the world.
Taking it a step further, officer Thomas Gamicchia of the Grosse Pointe Police Department compared it to being intoxicated.
“Texting and driving is like driving drunk,” But he said there is a solution: “People should be using hands-free systems.”
Many automakers today offer fully-integrated hands-free systems in cars via Bluetooth or other products like Apple CarPlay. These systems allow you keep your phone out of your hands and speak into a microphone, without ever taking your eyes off the road. In fact, Apple CarPlay will even read texts and let people talk-to-text.
But it’s not just phones and texts that are distracting. Other factors could be friends in the car or simply changing a radio station. Anytime a person doesn’t have their eyes on the road to do another task, they are distracted.
In fact, at 55 mph if a person takes their eyes of the road for 5 seconds, they will have traveled the entire length of a football field.
That’s why some states have graduated driver’s licenses, like Michigan, according to the NHTSA. This limits the number of people allowed in a car and/or the times of the day you can drive. But not all states have this law and even those that do, not all new drivers follow the law.
“When I’m driving, it’s really distracting when there’s a lot of people in the car and I’m trying to focus on the road. It’s hard having friends talking around you while driving when there’s so many other important factors that you need to pay attention to,” Audrey Fuga ’18 said.
Fuga lost a friend in an accident due to distracted driving last year. “I’ve gotten too close to other cars or gone way too slow on the street in the past because I wasn’t paying enough attention.”
To help prevent distracted driving, the NSC has a link on their website where drivers can pledge to not participate in any activity that can cause them to be distracted and tips on how employers can work with employees to help them be attentive while driving to and from work.
Diehl has a message to other distracted drivers.
“Don’t pay attention to minor details when driving because you never know what could happen in those short amounts of time.”