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Distracted Driving

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18 Oct 2013
Word Count: 1,750

Drive To Work Or Working The Drive

A steaming cup of coffee, the scent of the hot breakfast sandwich, iPhone playing favorite tunes, a voice in the background, "Turn left in...", and the iPhone dings and shows a text message. This is a common American driver morning work commute scenario. Today there is a greater amount of obstacles and tasks drivers are involved with while driving. There are three main causes of distracted driving which are multitasking, technology, and cell phones. According to Richard Pallardy in the article "The Age of the Automobile”, the automobile in America was introduced in 1908 with the model T from Ford. GM and Chrysler started mass production of automobiles soon after. In the immediate years after World War II, pent up demand for new cars gave the industry a boost in profits. Under the Eisenhower administration in the early 1950s, a national network of interstate highways was built. When the system was completed, a driver could drive across the country on the four-lane roads from New York to Los Angeles without encountering a single red light. As the economy continued to grow, mass transportation dwindled and Americans became more mobile. Millions moved into the developing and evolving suburbs just beyond the metropolitan limits of the country's large cities (Pallardy). According to David Hosansky in his article "Distracted Driving” cuisine in the 1950’s was transformed by the automobile. Hamburgers, French fries, milk shakes, and apple pies — became the American food. Drivers wanted cheap, relatively fast food so they could be on their way in a hurry. In 1977 the first cellphone network was created by AT&T in Chicago. From the 1980’s -1990’s the cellphone becomes a large-scale commercial market. In 2000 68.7% of Americans have and use cellphones in automobiles. The release of the iPod and automobile GPS followed in 2001. Washington became the first state to ban texting in 2007. Ford developed the first dashboard equipped with internet, hands-free calling, GPS, and iPod control. Today voice interaction and touchscreens, multiple cup holders, and massaging seats are becoming standard in vehicles (411).
According to Hosansky, a busy mom in Ohio was pulled over and cited for child endangerment. The woman had her child braced against the steering wheel breastfeeding while the mother was on the cell phone driving on a slick wet road. While much of the concern for distracted driving comes from cell phones and texting, motorists engage in many other distracting activities. The most common are adjusting the car stereo, using an iPod, eating and drinking, driving while drowsy, grooming or putting on makeup, roaming dogs, interacting with children in the backseat, setting GPS for navigation, and reading or viewing videos (412). Mathew Walberg states in the article "Drivers Distracted by More Than Calls, Texts," that eating and drinking is the number one distraction after cell phones. Driving while drowsy is an increasingly overlooked distraction while driving. Nearly 41% of drivers say they've fallen asleep behind the wheel at some point or another. Applying makeup or shaving while driving to work in rush hour is done from poor time management and busy schedules. There's even a "vanity mirror" placed in the fold-down visor right above the windscreen to facilitate this morning ritual. The blamed culprit is shortage of time from Americans’ compressed schedules (A10). Technology is intertwined with our lives and our automobiles. Explained by Mike Ramsey in his article "Don't Look Now: A Car That Tweets,” auto makers are piling new technologies into their vehicles: everything from 17-inch dashboard screens to services that check Facebook, receive texts, and buy movie tickets. With Americans increasingly glued to devices and their constant flow of information, the auto makers are rolling out what they call the "connected car." These vehicles can do everything from book a restaurant to delivering Twitter feeds—all at 65 miles an hour. There is more to come, too. Software to import iPhone and Android applications is around the corner. Gadgetry is taking on added importance for the auto makers, who are starting to fret that the number of teenage drivers is declining and more 20-somethings aren't sold on owning a car. Cars from GM, Ford, and even Mercedes Benz are coming with 8 inch touch screen displays for navigation, music control, Facebook access, Google searches, and sending prewritten text messages with a click. Automobiles are even coming with heated, full massage features installed in the drivers seats (Ramsey). According to the NHTSA article “Distracted Driving 2009” you're 23 times more likely to crash if you text while driving. Prior to the 2000s, this distraction would not have even existed. But with technology and social media platforms, it's become one of the worst mass distractions since drinking and driving. It takes about five seconds of attention to a screen and keyboard to send a brief text. Disturbingly, 77% of teens and young adult drivers say they can safely drive while texting (Distracted). According to Anne Collier’s article "Texting while driving: the new drunk driving," teens give multiple reasons why they have to text while driving. Collier has paraphrased some of the teens’ responses to why do you text while driving. A few of the responses to Collier’s are: “Technology is my life – why should I put my life on hold just because I’m driving a car?” “It’s rude not to answer a text”. Even though you are driving, teens believe it is not socially acceptable to “ignore” someone and text back. “Texting is who I am. It’s even more than self-expression and definitely more than just communication. Why would I take time out from that?” (1-6). According to Hosansky, the affects distracted driving has on individuals is increasing the automobile accidents and deaths in the U.S. In 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. Of those people killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). Of those injured in distracted-driving-related crashes, 24,000 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (5% of injured people in distraction-related crashes). 16% of fatal crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. 20% of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16% of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. Of those drivers involved in fatal crashes who were reportedly distracted, the 30- to 39-year-olds had the highest proportion of cell phone involvement. Driving under the influence of a cell phone, be it handheld or hands-free, impairs driver reaction to the same level as being at the legal limit for blood alcohol content of .08. Hands-free headsets appear to reduce the risk somewhat, instead of tying up your hands and cognitive skills, hands-free units only tie up your mental capabilities; in some jurisdictions, they're mandatory for people who talk on the phone while they drive. Studies suggest that talking on a cell phone roughly quadruples a person's risk of being involved in a crash (407-411).

According to Ramsey, the automobile industry has seen an increase in the market of hands-free technology. Putting in new technology to prevent distracted driving has increased the price of vehicles. This has also effected legislation in laws passed to prevent distracted driving, primarily with cell phone usage. Texting while driving has been outlawed or is soon to be outlawed for all drivers in the following states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont,[35] Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Laws enacted in Kentucky in 2010, Indiana in 2011 and Ohio in 2012 banned texting for all drivers, as well as cell phone usage by all drivers under 18. The latter feature is unusual in that holders of unrestricted licenses are subject to the ban; most states that have banned cell phone usage by young drivers apply their laws only to holders of restricted or graduated licenses. On October 1, 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced President Barack Obama's signing of an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles (401-424).

The amount of technology that is available for use in vehicles is amazing. I have learned startling facts of the deaths and fatalities that are caused by distracted driving. There are a lot of new technologies to prevent distracted driving. Voice commands in vehicles, automatic braking, hands-free devices for cell phone use and stereo integration for iPod and mp3 player use. These seem to help if the drivers use them. The biggest prevention of distracted driving is not to use your cell phone while driving. I have heard many people say they cannot stop multitasking in their vehicle. They state that their automobile is their office. The alarming truth is people will not stop distracted driving. Though many laws have been passed to ban texting and phone usage while driving, it still continues to take place.

I hope there is a change in showing the new teen drivers the effects of distracted driving. The number one cause of teen deaths in the U.S. is from texting and driving. Many have labeled texting and driving and phone usage in the vehicle as the new drunk driving. It is an epidemic that is on the rise in the U.S. I have been affected by distracted driving personally. I was nearly killed and have half my face replaced by metal. I will have mental effects for the rest of my life and suffer to this day from PTSD from the accident. It can be stopped, but we still haven’t figure out how to while keeping everyone technologically connected.

Taking things back to the start could prevent distracted driving. Drivers need to remember what driving is. Until fully automated driving is invented we need to continue to drive. Multitasking and gadgetry are becoming the death of us in our automobiles. Drivers need to focus on driving and not working while they drive. You will get more work done if you arrive at work than texting your boss or friend, “I will be rig….”

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