As I write this post, the cousin of a Facebook friend is in a coma across town as the apparent result of cell phone use (texting) while driving. I do not know Crystal’s particular details, but Brian has kept everyone updated on her progress, and has shown photos of her car which convey an accident I cannot imagine anyone escaping.
While everyone is surely hopeful for a happy ending in this situation, the enormity of the tragedy itself causes me to bring this particular subject to light here. As a result of the nature of my job, I have been provided the following sobering statistics via an email from The National Catholic Risk Retention Group dated April 29, 2010:
- Distracted driving is the number one killer of American teens. Alcohol-related accidents among teens have dropped. But teenage traffic fatalities have remained unchanged, because distracted driving is on the rise. (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Study and NHTSA Study)
- While over 90% of teen drivers say they don’t drink and drive, nine out of 10 say they’ve seen passengers distracting the driver, or drivers using cell phones. (National Teen Driver Survey)
- Brain power used while driving decreases by 40% when a driver listens to conversation or music. (Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University Study)
- More than 80% of drivers admit to blatantly hazardous behavior: changing clothes, steering with a foot, painting nails, reading documents and shaving. (Nationwide Mutual Insurance Survey)
- Drivers on mobile phones are more impaired than drivers at .08 BAC (blood alcohol content). (University of Utah Study)
- Crash risk increases 4 times while using hand held or hands free cell phones. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
- At least 25% of all motor vehicle accidents — more than 1.5 million per year and more than 4300 per day — are caused by driver inattention. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
I also believe everyone should read Understanding the Distracted Brain, published by the National Safety Council in March of this year. Further information can be found at the National Safety Council website for distracted driving. (They have an entire site dedicated to this topic. Does that say something to us?!!)
My personal resolution to this problem is simple: no phone for me in the car. I have begun to hand my cell phone to the kids in the backseat. They love to talk on the phone, answer any darn phone that rings, and are more than willing to entertain a caller if I am busy. Victoria even randomly texts people from my phone. (I apologize ahead of time if you are in my contacts list!) So, they can deal with any incoming phone calls while we are on the road. I will do my level best to focus only on the task of safely reaching our destination.
As I hope you consider the risks of cell phone use while driving, I ask also that you please, please send up every prayer you can for Crystal and her family. May they find strength and peace in the days ahead. May she return to full health, and may the change that takes place be for the better. And may we all strive for safety on our roads.