Stop Distracted Driving and Sign Oprah's No Phone Zone Pledge
University of Utah researcher David Strayer has been studying “distracted drivers” for 10 years. He has found that talking on a cell phone while driving quadruples your risk of an accident. Texting (or sending email) on a phone increases the risk eight times. The dangerous distraction is equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.08 – the definition of drunk driving.
The movie “Seven Pounds” cinematically shows the devastating effects of driving distracted. Will Smith’s character kills his wife and another family because he loses control of his vehicle while driving on a curvy road. Unfortunately, this doesn’t only happen in the movies.
In September 2008, a Los Angeles commuter train conductor missed a red light while sending and receiving more than 40 text messages. His packed train collided head-on with a freight train, injuring 135 people. The conductor and 24 others were killed, making it the second worst commuter train crash in U.S. history.
Weeks later, a school bus carrying 21 students was rear-ended by an 18-wheel semi truck. The bus was pushed more than 200 feet before bursting into flames. Twenty students escaped, but 13-year-old Margay Schee was killed. The truck driver admitted he had been texting and hadn't seen that the bus was stopped.
Distracted driving is defined as taking your eyes off the road, taking your hands off the wheel, or taking your mind off of what you are doing. It is a distraction that takes away from the primary task of driving and not only includes cell phones, but also eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming (think lipstick, ladies), using a GPS navigation system, or changing a radio station or CD.
According to national statistics, nearly 500,000 people are injured and 6,000 others are killed each year because of drivers talking, texting, or emailing on cell phones. Those under the age of 20 are the worst offenders, and the most likely to be involved in a crash.
Oprah Winfrey has created the “No Phone Zone” pledge to encourage drivers to put the cell phones away while driving and concentrate on the road. "It is my prayer that this show, this day will be a seminal day in your life," Oprah says. "Let it be the end, the end of you using a cell phone or sending a text message when you are behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. And until we as a nation decide we're going to change that, those numbers are only going to go up."
Currently, over 130,000 people have signed the pledge on the website, and you can too by going to http://www.oprah.com/questionaire/ipledge.html?id=4
In addition, follow these guidelines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Set a good example for your friends and family. Never talk or text on your cell phone while driving. If you are a passenger in a car and the driver is talking or testing on his/her cell phone, ask them to pull over and stop the car or wait until they get to their destination.
- Before you drive, turn off your phone and put it out of reach. You can turn it back on when you reach your destination. Vow to talk only when it is safe to do so.
- Set your cell phone ringer to “mute” so you won’t be tempted to answer it if it rings while you’re driving.
- Change your voicemail message to let callers know that you won’t talk because you’re driving, but you’ll call back as soon as it is safe to do so. Teach your teen driver to do the same.
- If you make a call and reach someone who is driving, tell them you’ll call them back or ask them to call you when they reach their destination and it’s safe to chat.
- Find out what the distracted driving law is in your State for adults and young drivers. There are many states that have recently enacted laws against hand-held devices and texting. If your State does not have a cell phone or texting ban, or has limited or a weak distracted driving law, become a champion for legislation.
- Talk to your teen driver about the devastating consequences of distracted driving. They won’t think it can happen to them, but it can. Know the facts and share it with them. Engage your teens in a dialogue about the problem.
- Know the law. Many Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws have cell phone and texting bans for your drivers. Make sure you and your teen driver know the law and that your teen driver adheres to the rules. In addition to the consequences that you have set at home, if your teen violates the GDL law they could have their license delayed or suspended.
- Set rules to keep your teens from driving while distracted. Tell them that you will check the cell phone log on the bill, and that there will be serious consequences if they break the rules. Then follow through if they do break the rules.
- Remind your teens that a fender-bender for a motorist can be deadly for a bicyclist or pedestrian.
- Teach your teens to drive defensively. Remind them that even though they don’t drive while distracted, there are others who do. Remind your teens that every single time someone takes their eyes or their focus off the road - even for just a few seconds - they put their lives and the lives of others in danger.