Even fifteen years ago, cell phones were a novelty.  (Remember, they were the size of bricks, and you only had one in your car for emergencies?)  It’s incredible how rapidly things have changed.  First there were beepers, then cell phones, then texting, and now we can even get email and Facebook updates on our smart phones… everyone is connected to everyone else, all the time.

The first consequence of this is Attention Deficit Trait, or ADT – decreased productivity and increased anxiety, due to the many distractions so common in the American workplace.  But another, related consequence is the fact that as a result of this constant distraction, we are seldom completely focused on what we’re doing – which is especially problematic if what we’re doing is operating a several ton vehicle going between 25 and 80 miles per hour.

I know, it feels like you’re completely in control, and you can safely text and drive.  But the data shows that you can’t.

  • Texting while driving is about six times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated.  It’s about the equivalent of driving after having four beers, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
  • Texting while driving accounts for almost 25% of auto collisions.
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which is the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind!  
  • In June 2009, a study conducted by Car and Driver magazine compared reaction time driving under the influence to reaction time while texting.  In terms of stopping distance, intoxication added add 4 feet, while reading e-mail added 36 feet, and sending a text added 70 feet.
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%.
  • Texting while driving is implicated in 11 teen deaths every day.
  • Text messaging makes a crash up to 23 times more likely.  Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to Monash University.

Since these are just statistics, here’s a few larger-scale stories:

  • In May 2009, a Boston trolley car crashed while the driver texted his girlfriend. 49 people were injured, though none were killed.
  • In 2008, a Union Pacific freight train collided with a commuter train in LA, killing 25 passengers. Investigations revealed that the engineer of that train had sent 45 text messages while operating.

Unfortunately, Arizona is one of only eight US states that has no restriction at all on cell phone use while driving.  We’ll probably get there, though, since on the basis of this data, all cell phone use while driving has been outlawed in Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK.  Texting while driving has been outlawed thus far in 35 states, and texting for new drivers has been outlawed in seven more.

Until there are laws in Arizona as well, here’s what you can do to keep yourself and others safe:

  • While driving, put your phone out of reach, so that it is not even a temptation to check or send text messages.
  • If you have an Android or Blackberry, check out their free anti-texting and driving “Drive Mode” app.
  • If you have teenagers, make sure they understand this is non-negotiable!
  • Sign the pledge not to text and drive here (and check out the video!)

(And as a side benefit, you will likely discover that focusing on one thing at a time will help you to slow down, and decrease your tension and anxiety as well.)