A survey of teenaged drivers in the Pacific Northwest revealed that while warnings about the dangers of texting and driving have largely gotten through, much work remains to curb distracted driving among the group most prone to causing, getting injured in and dying from car crashes.
Done as part of an educational intervention for highschoolers and young college students in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, the survey documented a decline in the number of 16-20 year olds who used cell phones and smartphones while behind the wheel. That gain in responsible, attentive driving appears to get offset by significant numbers of respondents who admitted to taking their eyes and minds off the road for other reasons. Approximately 27 percent of survey respondents admitted to “sometimes” changing clothes while driving. Other bad driving habits the students must — to borrow a phrase — check before they wreck include completing homework, putting in contact lens, eating and fiddling with the radio or digital music player.
Commenting on this for West Virginia Public Radio, National Institutes of Health behavioral scientist Bruce Simons-Morton observed, “Doing anything that requires the driver to take his or her eyes off the road is dangerous. So the most important message they need to hear is ‘Keep your eyes on the forward roadway.”
Why? Because federal statistics reported on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website distraction.gov indicate that 3,328 U.S. resident lost their lives in crashes involving a distracted driver during 2012. That same year, some 421,000 people suffered injuries thanks to a driver whose attention had wandered.
My Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I have emphasized the need to avoid distractions while driving for decades. With more people heeding the lifesaving message to never text and drive, now is the time to focus on all the other activities best done while a car is parked.