When we drive, we join the community of drivers on the road. We rely on each other to follow laws and pay attention. We trust that everyone on the road with us is a dependable member of our community.
Yet we’re busy individuals who feel pressed to multi-task even when we’re on the road. We talk on the phone, study GPS screens, read emails on our PDAs, fiddle with our music systems, and eat lunch as we drive. We live in a demanding world, and we try to get as much done as we can during our limited time.
Sometimes the community pays a high price for that.
Our Injury Center data show that, in 2005, motor vehicle traffic fatalities accounted for 37 percent of unintentional fatal injuries – more than 43,600 deaths. Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells us that nearly 80 percent of crashes involve some form of driver distraction. Clearly, paying full attention while we’re driving can save lives and reduce non-fatal injuries.
That’s why we commend the National Safety Council for its call for a nationwide ban of all cell phone use while driving. Notably, the NSC makes no distinction between using hand-held and hands-free devices. Studies show that driver distraction is not created by where your hands are, but by where your head is. Although there are activities that may be more dangerous while driving, cell phone use occurs more frequently and lasts longer than other distracting behaviors.
We can prevent crashes and the resulting deaths and life-altering injuries caused by driver distraction. When we get behind the wheel, we must give our full attention and focus to driving. We owe that to ourselves and everyone on the road with us. It’s a matter of trust.