People are smart; however, they do stupid things that affect everyone’s wellbeing. Amazingly, often they do things with full awareness of the consequences. Case in point: according to published reports in the U.S, ‘94% of teenagers understand the consequences of texting and driving, but 35% of them admitted that they do it anyway’. It overwhelms my mind why they knowingly take the risk and endanger limbs and lives. It looks like, often, we are blinded by our own arrogance and false belief of invincibility.
‘Turn off the phone and just drive’, that was the message on the overhead electronic signboard on the highway. It is one of a series of messages as part of an awareness campaign on distracted driving.
Driving a vehicle needs our dedicated, undivided, and 100% attention. When our attention strays away or when our minds preoccupied with other thoughts then driving become distracted. When our eyes move away from the road even for a split second our chances to get into an accident intensifies. Our inattention, however brief, leads to grave consequences. Accidents cause death and destruction. Accidents end relationships and livelihoods.
Any distraction or diversion of our attention, even for a fraction of a second, could impair the safe operation of a motor vehicle. Usual culprits of distractions are mobile phone calls, texting, eating, playing with the radio buttons, etc. Distractions, however brief, causes inattention creating an unsafe driving condition. There are many reports, and plenty of statistics showing distracted drivers are five times more likely to get into dangerous accidents.
There is overwhelming evidence to prove that the main cause of driver distraction is the use of mobile devices. It has been proved that a driver talking, texting, typing, dialling, emailing by using a handheld mobile phone is four times more likely to meet with an accident. Human error that includes driver distraction causes 99% of the accidents.
When his pickup truck ploughed into the rear of a stopped tractor-trailer at about 100 kilometers per hour, it triggered a chain reaction. Two more school buses ended up crashing into the wreckage. Two people died and injured 38 people. Later investigators discovered that the driver of the pickup truck sent out five and received six text messages during the 11 minutes prior to the deadly crash. He was distracted causing the perilous crash.
There is much devastation on our highways and byways these days. It is not because of the lack of rules and regulations, or because of poorly designed vehicles, or ignorant drivers, or deficiencies in enforcement, or due to poor road conditions. It is simply because of the driver’s lackadaisical mindset, driving under the influence of alcohol or other illegal drugs, and driving while distracted.
There were many studies conducted on the issue of distracted driving. According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teenagers were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes. Teen drivers have a 400% higher chance of being in a car crash when texting while driving than adults. Texting while driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident when compared to drunk driving.
Texting and driving in India is another horror story. According to a SaveLIFE Foundation report, “…in India, there is no data that is being currently captured at the crash site by authorities to record the connection between mobile phone usage and crashes.” However, the report highlights the fact that “While it has just 1% of the world’s vehicles, India accounts for over 10% of global road crash fatalities”.
People are not stupid, but they do absurd things due to ignorance, and arrogance. They are willing to take chances with full awareness of the consequences. Some even find a discrete pleasure in challenging the existing norms.
It is important to promote the right mindset and awareness of the great responsibility that comes with driving. Driving a vehicle is a fulltime job; it needs our 100% undivided attention. Distracted driving can be curbed by simply following a certain regimen. Harsh penalties alone are not deterrents for impaired or distracted driving; it needs ongoing education, rehab mechanisms: a new comprehensive approach to bring forth a brand-new mindset, a mindset that accepts ‘driving high’ is dangerous, and injurious. A complete package that includes continuous education, awareness building, penalties, enforcement, and other legal deterrents is necessary to curb the phenomenon. As addiction is an illness, the dialogue needs to address recovery and rehabilitation as well.