It’s a brisk morning in Topeka, KS, winter 2001, and I’m running late again. I warm up the old yellow Subaru and pull onto 10th street, lurching towards Topeka High School. There’s a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch balanced in my lap and a pair of headphones on my ears, Blood Brothers blaring. I’m approaching the first green light, 10th and Gage, when there’s a loud flash of red at the corner of my eye. I slam on the brakes. An ambulance rushes through the intersection, missing my jalopy by inches. It was that close.
I pull into the animal hospital parking lot and sit, shaking in my car, cereal and milk spilled all over the dash and my clothes and gather my thoughts for a minute.
I’ve never told anyone this story, too embarrassed that I was almost in a serious accident because of some cereal. Because of headphones. Because of distraction. It’s been a problem in America for a long time. And it’s only getting worse.
In its annual distracted driving study, Zendrive defines a new category of distracted drivers, the phone addict. Phone addicts are the new drunk drivers. But what is a phone addict?
- Spend 1.5x more time on the road than average
- Drive 7.6x more miles while using their devices every day
- Pick up their devices 4.3x more than average
- Spend 6x more time with their devices each time they touch it
- Have their eyes off the road for 28% of total time spent on the road.
Phone addicts generally agree that distracted driving is a problem, just not their problem.
From the Zendrive Study:
“When asked about their opinion on distracted driving, 85 percent of respondents identified the issue as a very important problem. When asked to rate their overall driving safety, 90 percent claimed to be safe drivers, but 47 percent admitted to using their device so often they fall in the Phone Addict category. What do we do when almost half of all drivers on the road classify themselves ‘safe drivers’ despite spending 10 percent of their time distracted behind the wheel?”
Is distracted driving as deadly as drunk driving? It’s hard to say.
In 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 10,497 deaths as a result of drunk driving and 3,450 for distracted driving. Although drunk drivers cause more deaths, phone use fatalities are much harder to accurately track. From Zendrive:
“NHTSA reports that during daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving. As part of our 2018 Distracted Driving Study, Zendrive found that the problem was 100 times worse than reported by the government’s dataset. Over 69 million people use their phones at least once while behind the wheel, meaning at least 60 percent drivers use their phones while driving each day.”
What can you do to help? We’re at a crucial moment in the fight against driver phone use.
Here are some tips:
- Don’t Do It! – What’s the best way to avoid distracted driving? Don’t do it. You know that checking your phone or eating while driving is dangerous. Respect yourself and others on the road by not driving distracted.
- Do Not Disturb- Turn on their driving autoresponder, be it Do Not Disturb While Driving mode for Apple or Android Auto
- Have Your Passengers Do Some Work – As the driver you have one job, drive! Your passengers have their hands free, so let them run the GPS or control the radio. My wife Kelly and I don’t drive very often, but when we do, she drives and I control the route. It’s a great system.
- Speak Up! – If you see someone texting while driving (or driving distracted in a different way), let them know you are not comfortable with their behavior. People listen to their friends!
Every time I hear an ambulance, I think about that chilly Kansas morning, and what could have happened.
Together, lets propagate change and stamp out distracted driving to create safer roads once and for all.