Submitted By: Alex Kerwin
College is an exciting time, geared toward learning and gaining new experiences. Often times, younger college students are also learning how to become responsible drivers. With technology appearing everywhere you look, it is not surprising that such modern technology would find its way inside cars and into the hands of those operating them. Roadways are now flooded with drivers who are texting, checking email, and engaging in conversations, all while driving. Naturally, distracted driving poses major risks and, in some cases, has fatal consequences, not just for the driver but also for passengers and innocent bystanders. While some of these accidents result in fatalities, others result in severe anoxic brain injuries which leave innocent people disabled.
Most activities that distract today’s drivers are very common and may not seem unlawful or dangerous, but they are. Text messaging is the most dangerous activity a driver can do. Text messaging demands the use of manual, visual, and even cognitive abilities. When speaking with someone via cell phone, the driver’s primary focus shifts to the conversation, in turn reducing the driver’s cognitive abilities by 40%. Using a cell phone to text or even conduct social media tasks such as email and Facebook, jeopardizes the driver’s safety and sometimes life. Chances for experiencing a crash increase a whopping 23 times when visually operating a cell phone while driving.
Distracted driving isn’t just restricted to cell phone use; anything that causes the driver to take either their eyes or focus off the road is considered distracted driving. Many people would be surprised to learn just what is considered distracted driving. You don’t have to be typing out a message on a cell phone to be considered a distracted driver; even simply drifting off into a daydream can decrease the brain’s ability to focus on the task of driving. Some other examples of distracted driving include texting, using a smart phone or cell phone, drinking and eating, conversing with other passengers, brushing hair and teeth (yes, this has happened), applying makeup, reading (even if it is a map), operating navigation equipment, watching movies, and operating a cd player, radio or other audio device. It is scary to consider the fact that our neighbors are sharing the same roadways with drivers whose brains are only 60% focused on the task of driving. The fact that there are a growing number of distracted drivers makes even the safest of activities, such as jogging and biking along campus, a potential risk.
Statistics are now reflecting just how dangerous distracted driving really is. Eight out of 10 vehicle accidents in Virginia are associated with a distracted driver who is texting while driving. In 2010, 3092 people lost their lives in a car accident involving a distracted driver. Eleven per cent of all drivers under 20, who were involved in fatal car accidents, were found to have been distracted at the time of the accident. Drivers who operate cell phones are 4 times more likely to get into a serious car accident than those who do not.
Virginia does not take the issue of distracted driving lightly. Not only is it illegal to text and drive, but violation of this law requires a fine of $20 for the first offense and a $50 fine for all subsequent violations. If the accident results in property damage or death, the penalties are much more serious, and if convicted of manslaughter, may result in a criminal record and involve jail time.
There is no text message worth such pain, suffering, and personal ruin. The responsible course of action and best way to protect yourself and others while driving is to concentrate fully on operating your vehicle.