27 Sep It Can Wait
his might seem like a strange topic to bring up on the SBX blog, but if Jonathan can write about whatever he wants, then I think our readers can forgive my little rant, especially if I loosely tie it all together with the discussion of a public awareness campaign.
What is the deal with people on their phones while driving?
It’s worse than (or at least as bad as) drunk driving, but it seems so much more acceptable. Honestly, why is it that drivers can’t put their phones down while they are operating a 3,000-pound vehicle? Do people feel that compelled to work 24/7? Do they think their witty status updates are so important that they can’t wait? Or, are we as a society so overstimulated that operating a moving vehicle isn’t enough to require our full attention?
On my commute just yesterday I saw 12 people using their handsets to talk on the phone and 9 people texting (or otherwise typing) while their cars were in motion—and I only drove 34 miles round trip. Even scarier, in my opinion, is the daily appearance of photos in my Facebook feed taken and posted by drivers—including some truck drivers!
I’m not saying I’ve never done it, but I am saying that since noticing the lack of awareness on the road, I have stopped texting totally and will only talk if I can be hands-free. (In full disclosure, having the twins in the car has brought my awareness to a whole new level, and I don’t touch the phone if they are with me.)
State officials have been noticing this trend too, implementing hands-free or texting laws that allow police to stop distracted drivers. 12 states and DC ban hand-held cell phone use and 41 states and DC ban text messaging, but the general message is to not use cell phones while driving regardless of the current law. Distracted driving has become so prevalent that some states are considering adding edgeline and centerline rumble strips to alert drivers when they drift. Just this week, New York took it a step further and instituted ‘texting zones,’ posting nearly 300 signs directing drivers towards 91 locations where they can safely stop to use their phones.
How has it gotten so bad that laws have to be made to tell people not to play games while driving? I mean, you wouldn’t decide to take the paper with you to read during your morning commute, so why would it be okay to read things on an electronic device?
There are a few campaigns out there encouraging safe, non-distracted driving. I’m sure you’ve seen and remember the horrifying commercials that depict victims of texting and driving accidents, then ask (rhetorically) if the texts were worth it. They are part of the It Can Wait campaign. It Can Wait, sponsored by AT&T, is an effort to get drivers to pledge to never text and drive, and supplies drivers with resources for curbing distracted driving—including downloadable apps that limit phone capabilities while in motion.
I hope this campaign makes an impact. I personally think that while the images in television commercials are moving, they are easy to forget when you’re on the road and your phone buzzes. What is harder to ignore are the It Can Wait stickers you see on bumpers that remind drivers, while they’re driving, to put their phones down. These gentle reminders tend to have a stronger impact than do television commercials. Unfortunately, drivers have to have their eyes on the road, in order to see them.