For emergency management personnel, from fire fighters to ambulance drivers, mission-critical communication is at the center of every call. For the rest of us, communication is a significant part of our daily lives, but it doesn’t usually come with life threatening consequences. Particularly when it comes to our mobile devices, the constant access we have to our phones is considered a convenience, not a hindrance. However, the increasing focus on the dangers of texting while driving, along with the rising legal implications, are bringing a new emphasis on alternative communication strategies when it comes to mobility.
Impact of Mobile Devices
We’ve all had dinner with someone, a child, a spouse, or even a business associate, who stared at their mobile phone the entire time. The rise in mobile device use has put electronic communication at our fingertips (literally), on a 24/7 basis. And texting is increasingly becoming the preferred channel for conversations, even when sitting face-to-face with others. Here are a few statistics to support how much we love texting.
- 7 billion text messages are sent worldwide every day (Static Brain)
- People age 18-24 send 128 texts per day, while those over 55 send only 16 per day. (Pew Research)
- On average, Americans text twice as much as they call. (Nielsen)
- The average college student spends 94 minutes per day texting (Journal of Behavioral Addiction)
- Text is the most common form of communication for American adults under 50. (Gallup)
- The average text message is read in under 5 seconds (Slicktext)
Even though text communication is all the rage, and is often a necessary part of our day, it’s not always a safe activity. In fact, texting can quickly become a life or death matter if doing so while driving.
Breaking the Habit of Texting and Driving
As someone who spends a lot of time on the highway, I have witnessed first hand how dangerous texting and driving can be. On a recent evening trip, a lady, whose face was oddly lit by the blue light of her mobile phone, passed me doing 80 mph. She was driving with her forearms, holding her mobile phone at the top of the steering wheel, texting with both hands. As she pulled ahead of me, I watched her weave in and out of her lane, much like a drunk driver would. She crossed the left access lane completely, and ran her driver side wheels into the gravel before finally hitting the brakes and abruptly maneuvering her vehicle back onto the interstate.
Law enforcement officials are upping the ante on distracted driving, as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Texting and Driving? You Never Know Who’s Watching.” The article points out that police are setting up sting operations to catch texting drivers in the act. In states such as Tennessee, officers are riding in moving school buses to catch drivers on the road, while, in Michigan, officers are dressing as road workers to observe and ticket law-breaking drivers.
Mobility and Voice: Can You Hear Me Now?
Does that mean that mobility, or using your cell phone for business and personal use is totally off-limits if you’re driving? Of course not; texting may be out, but you can still talk.
One could argue that voice communication on a cell phone also contributes to distracted driving. But, I think most people would agree that, when properly implemented with voice dialing and Bluetooth headsets, voice is a far safer way to communicate. The concept of removing your eyes from the road to thumb type on a tiny hand held device while rolling down the road in a 5000-pound vehicle is absurd.
I know what you are saying, “But, I am very careful when I text while driving. I only text when no cars are in the adjacent lanes, while I am on straight stretches of road, and while I am at stoplights .” Whether you recognize the risks or not, the statistics speak for themselves. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) claimed 3,477 lives were lost in 2015 alone due to distracted driving. Astoundingly, 423,765 people were injured due to distracted driving in 2015. With 210 million licensed drivers in the US, that makes the odds of being injured in a distracted driving accident in any given year about 1 in 500.
Texting and driving is very risky behavior and the results can be catastrophic. If you don’t believe it, look up Matt Logan’s story from Brainerd, Mn. Matt’s daughter, while a senior in high school, lost her life after slamming into a stopped school bus while texting. Matt made an impassioned plea to the students at the Brainerd High graduation ceremony to stop this behavior.
When you are in your car, and your life depends on it, make a voice phone call as opposed to texting. Utilizing the options technology provides us today for mobility is not only the safe thing to do, it’s a smarter way to communicate.