Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Texting while driving is worse than drinking and driving.

Posted by lapearce on July 13, 2009

Car & Drivers texting vs. drunk driving results

Car & Driver's texting vs. drunk driving stop distance results

One of my fellow driving instructors, Steve, was driving to work last week when he saw a Ford Expedition that was having trouble maintaining his lane. He looked over and saw the woman driving the SUV was texting. His carpool passengers watched her as Steve drove and noticed that sometimes she would drive for a full 20 seconds without looking up.

Steve looked ahead and saw that traffic had come to a stop. He looked over again and saw that the woman was still looking down. He announced, “She’s going to hit someone” and slowed down so that someone wouldn’t be him. What happened next he still can’t believe he witnessed.

She came up on the stopped traffic going about 50mph. She looked up just feet before hitting an SUV in front of her. She tried to brake but by then it was too late. Steve dialed 911 before the crash even happened in order to report the inevitable. He then stopped to check on the drivers. The woman’s airbags had deployed and the entire front of her SUV was destroyed. He went up to her window and asked if she was alright. Her response was:

I don’t know what happened.

Distractions are dangerous. I think people know that even as they willingly take part in these distractions. They just feel it won’t happen to them, or they are a better driver and are able to overcome what others can’t. You just can’t get away from the cold, hard facts about texting while driving, however, it is more dangerous than driving drunk.

The Transport Research Labratory in the U.K. found that texting reduces reaction time by 35 percent, compared to 12 percent for drinking and driving. Scarier still, the study found that steering ability decreased 95 percent while texting. So not only do you have a third less time to react to what is happening on the road, you have nearly no ability to avoid any emergency.

Car and Driver also recently did a study on how texting and driving compares to drunk driving and found the same results. In one test, one of the drivers went nearly 300 feet longer before braking than he did while driving drunk. That is the difference of a football field! Would you blindfold yourself and run the length of a football field with other people and objects on the field for you to hit? Probably not, that could be painful, and yet drivers do this every time they text message while driving.

Even with this information, 60 percent of teens admit to texting while driving.

So how can we help? Bans only work if they are enforced and no one wants their child to learn the hard way with a crash. I would look to enroll your child in a defensive driving school that goes over the dangers of distractions. In our class we have kids master a slalom, then once they are confident in their skills, we have them do it again while trying to pick up an object meant to be their cell phone. Then we have them run through it again with them pretending to talk on their cell phone.

The results are amazing. Cones go everywhere, parents step way back, and some of the teens come to a complete stop in the “road” because they are so distracted. We don’t do this with them texting, because it would be impossible to go between cones while doing so, and after trying to do the course with a cell phone to their ear, the teens recognize that.

Yesterday I had one student say, “Being on a cell phone is more dangerous than I thought!” and another said she realized now just how much she had to pay attention to while driving, and the thought of adding distraction was too scary to imagine.

If you don’t have access to a car control clinic I recommend getting some cones and going to an empty and open parking lot. Create a course and help your child drive through it. Once they’ve mastered it, have them do it again pretending to be on their phone. Ride with them as you do this so if they accidently hit the gas (it can happen) you can quickly gain control. They’ll see the difference, and so will you.

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