This past weekend I was stopped at a light with a line of cars in front of me for at least 20 seconds when I heard screeching tires behind me. Looking into my rear view mirror I saw a newer, midsized car barreling down on me. At the last minute, they swerved into a shallow ditch just behind and to the right of my vehicle. Inside, a younger girl glared at me. I suspect she was embarrassed and frightened. At the same time, I am sure she had been texting.
Consider these alarming 2016 statistics from distracteddriveraccidents.com:
- 1 out of every 4 car accidents are caused by texting while driving
- Every year, 421,000 people are severely injured in accidents involving texting and driving
- Every day, 11 teenagers die because they were texting and driving. That’s approximately 330 per month and nearly 4,000 per year. (To put that into context, 37,000 individuals of all ages perish in auto accidents annually).
Pedestrian deaths by car are also on the rise. Clearly, we have an epidemic. Cleary, we need solutions.
Face-to-face communication is obviously not always feasible. Not in our hectic, time-sensitive and geographically far-ranging world. Email has largely replaced snail mail and, especially for millennials, texting has replaced talking on the phone as the preferred mode of one-on-one and/or group interaction. It has gotten to the point, in fact, that many in the younger generational demographic never use the phone; they have become so text dependent. What to do about this?
I have suggestions. With two twenty-something children in my family, I am constantly striving to get their attention on this issue. If you can’t avoid communicating from the car, I tell them, then use Bluetooth and talk. Pure and simple. Today’s generation must recapture the ability to talk by phone and enhance their interpersonal skills – whether for school, business or their personal lives.
Now a suggestion for the Department of Transportation, NHTSA, automotive safety suppliers and the cellular phone companies: Get together and put legal mandates and high technology to work to save lives. How about tech in every car that renders the cell phone of the individual in the driver’s seat unable to text? The phone still works for Bluetooth calls. Others in the car can still text, just not the driver until the car is turned off. Impossible? There is technology out there such as sensors in a driver’s front window that can detect when a driver’s eyelids are fluctuating such to indicate they are falling asleep and then set off an alarm. This can and should be done.
Otherwise, it is only going to get worse. In the span of three weeks, Matt Friedman, one of my daughters and I were all rear-ended in three separate accidents, two causing injury. Look at anyone driving oddly (slowly, swerving) and you will see them texting. Communicating is important – only in the right way, at the right time. Anything else is dangerous, even deadly.