Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Warning: UR TXTing may be hazardous to my health :(

If it's not exactly OFFICIAL, it's now at least official:

The first study of drivers texting inside their vehicles shows that the risk sharply exceeds previous estimates based on laboratory research — and far surpasses the dangers of other driving distractions.

Virginia Tech installed cameras in long-haul trucks. What they found was that:

...when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting.

Forget the question about whether the drivers knew they were being observed or not - which you'd of thunk might have gotten them to text more cautiously at least.  A 23 times greater chance of a crash when texting? OMG.

Naturally, it was pointed out in the article I saw in The NY Times that most of us are not cannonballing down the highway in rigs that can't stop on a dime. (Speaking of which, am I the only one who's shocked when some knucklehead cuts in front of a loaded semi on a downgrade?)

But a simulated test done by the University of Utah with college students - presumably the most ardent, adept, and trigger-thumbed members of society - showed that texters were eight times more likely to get in an accident than non-texters.

(Studies of cell phone use, by contrast, show consistent - but less horrific - risks among those talking (1.3 times more likely) or dialing (three times).

Only 14 states outlaw texting, but it seems - IMHO -  like the time has come for the other 36 to hop on board. (My .02 anyway.)

Texting isn't going away - The Times reported a tenfold increase in the last three years. Last December, US phone texters served up 110 billion messages. As more and more people start using smartphones - with their handy-dandy keyboards - things are only going to get worse.

One of the most disturbing aspects of all this is that, while the vast majority of drivers acknowledge that texting is dangerous and unacceptable, 21% have done it anyway. (And if you go by age, 50% of those 16-24 had done it.)

The Times article went on to quote a 22 year old on the subject. (I've withheld the kid's name here. He just got out of college, and he's likely going to have a bad enough google problem with prospective employees over his throwaway line without me adding to it.)

Anyway, our man likes to text because "it's convenient," and he prefers it to a phone call. (Who needs to speak in real sentences, and hear the inflection in someone's voice, when they can say it with emoticons?)

“I put the phone on top of the steering wheel and text with both thumbs,” he said, adding that he often has exchanges of 10 messages or more. Sometimes, “I’ll look up and realize there’s a car sitting there and swerve around it....I’m pretty sure that someday it’s going to come back to bite me,” he said of his behavior.

Well, Mr. X, here's my problem.

It's just as likely that your desire to let your GF know that there's NADT up with you, WU with her, MUSM, is going to bite me, or some other innocent bystander/bydriver, as it is to bite you. Which, if the bite is fatal, would be quite sad for your friends and family, but will not exactly be undeserved.

Now that I think about it, I'm guessing that I'm at greater risk of being killed by a texting driver than I am by a drunken driver, since - carless in the city - I'm rarely on the road at night.

(And, by the way, when I am on the road, I will occasionally make or take a phone call, which I am trying not to do unless I pull over or am stuck in traffic. I cannot conceive of sending or reading a text message while a car I'm driving is in motion.)

Sorry, Mr. X, your "convenience" matters more than someone else's life?

UGTBK, you selfish little twerp.

"Seven Little Girls" was a novelty song when I was a kid. In the song, the driver of the car was miffed because he had seven cute girls in the car, but they all wanted to stay in the back seat making out with Fred. (Ah, those were the days when seven teenaged girls and one teenaged boy could actually fit in the back seat of a car. Oh, those boats of yesteryear. Not to mention that it was a kinder, gentler time, and no one but no one would have thought of this little scene as an eight-way.)  The chorus, as I recall, went:

Keep your mind on the driving,
Keep your hands on the wheel,
Keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead.
We're having fun, sitting in the back seat,
Hugging and a-kissing with Fred.

Time to resurrect this tune, and take it from a 45 RPM single to an iTunes download.

You want to text?

Be my guest.

Just go sit in the back seat to do it, why don't you?

1 comment:

valerie said...

laughing, laughing, but so true. I'm also laughing again at that crazy steel trap memory of yours.