In September, the Department of Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood convened the first ever Distracted Driving Summit, intent on confronting the widespread epidemic of texting and talking while driving.
Soon after, the federal government made an important move to protect public safety by banning federal employees from texting while driving, and yesterday, the Department of Transportation indicated that distracted driving was a major target for enforcement by prohibiting the drivers of commercial vehicles such as large trucks and buses from texting while operating their vehicles.
Research by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows irrefutable evidence of the danger of driving while texting: “Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers.”
20 times more likely? Sending one text can’t be that bad, can it?
The FMCSA illustrates that “drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting.”
Think of all the times you are walking around, or riding around, or driving your own car and you see someone, or two people, or dozens of people texting while driving. For every six seconds they are piloting a vehicle weighing several tons around you, or your community, or your children, they are paying attention for less than 1.5 seconds of every six.
Let’s pretend you’re sending a longer text, a 12 second text. Close your eyes, count to 9, and then open your eyes and continue counting to 12. That’s how alert texting renders drivers. Do we want to risk the lives of our families and friends?
Texting while driving needs to be illegal now.
And think of the highway, where people drive at least 55 mph, and most drive much faster; at this rate, the driver is “traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road.”
Despite those who pout about any additional regulations imposed by the federal government, this is a major victory for all users of our roads: drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, and I hope to see more such actions from Ray LaHood’s Department of Transportation.
I only hope they will move more quickly than the distracted drivers.
Additional information can be found on NPR which ran a story this morning on the ban and distracted driving, as well as a new advocacy group, Focus Driven, working towards a full cell phone ban while driving.