Some Food for Thought

distracted driving

By David Strayer

Imagine if a jet airplane full of passengers crashed today. And a week later, another airplane full of passengers crashed. Suppose this went on for a month or two. There would be media frenzy, the public would be outraged, and hearings in both the US House and Senate would be in the offing. Almost certainly, the Secretary of Transportation would announce some new safety measures.

Thankfully, airline travel is very safe and few lives are lost due to commercial airline crashes.

Now consider a more realistic scenario. Each week about 200 lives are lost due to crashes. However, in this case the crashes are not the result of air travel. Instead, the crashes are caused by drivers who are distracted by using their phone to talk or text.

This latter scenario is happening every day on our highways. Estimates from the National Safety Council suggest that each year between 6,000 and 10,000 fatalities are caused by drivers using of their cell phones. That translates into the same number of fatalities that would occur if a jet airplane crashed every week or so. But instead of the crashes happening all at once, they are distributed across our highways and so they do not receive the same attention that an airplane crash receives.

Driving is probably the most risky activity that we do on a daily basis. And when we talk or text while driving, the crash risk increases by a factor of 4 to 8. That translates into over 1.6 million crashes each year.

So far, there is no media frenzy, the public is not outraged, and there are no hearings in the US House and Senate from distracted driving crashes. Hopefully this will change.

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distracted driving

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