Six years ago, AT&T created their #ItCanWait campaign to combat distracted driving. It’s a pledge we should all take.
The statistics regarding distracted driving are always troubling. In 2014, 3,179 people died and more than 431,000 were injured in accidents involving distracted driving. Although the issue involves drivers of all ages, younger drivers are most susceptible when it comes to responding to devices while driving. The lure of answering a text or responding to a Facebook or Instagram posting is irresistible to a generation that is used to communicating more through electronic devices than through face-to-face meetings or regular phone calls. In fact, the NHTSA estimates that 10% of all 15-19 year old drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the accident.
The National Safety Council has designated April of each year as Distracted Driving Awareness month to draw attention to what has become essentially an epidemic. The American Trucking Associations publishes the facts and dangers about distracted driving each year at that time. Here are a few that should make you take notice:
- 4.6 seconds – that’s the amount of time your eyes are off the road when writing or reading a text. May not seem so much, but at 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field – blindfolded.
- A distracted driver is 20 times more likely to be involved in a crash than someone not distracted.
- When driving, a part of your brain focuses on the task. Talking on a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity devoted to driving by 37%
ATA also provides a list of things truck drivers can do to make sure that they stay focused, including silencing and storing cell phones while driving to eliminate distraction. For our industry, an industry that constantly works on improving its safety records and standards, the problem of distracted driving is always top of mind. It’s not just that our drivers have to focus on their own driving; they also have to worry about those who share the road with them. When a distracted auto driver is in an accident with a 40-ton trailer, the likelihood of a much more catastrophic result is obvious.
In response to this issue, in 2010, the “It Can Wait” campaign began with the hope of keeping people from looking at their phones while on the road. Last year and this year, they’ve produced a series of videos introducing ordinary people going about an ordinary day and show how lives are changed forever for no other reason than someone glanced at their phone while driving, instead of paying attention to the road ahead. As the site often says, “no post is worth a life.” More than 10 million people have responded by taking the pledge and there have been more than 5 million downloads of the DriverMode app, which silences alerts and auto-replies to others to let them know you’re on the road.
Yet, still every day I see drivers who take their focus off the road, either texting or looking at messages while driving or performing myriad other tasks that take attention away from what’s on the road. It’s time we all do more than just take the pledge…it’s time for us to keep that pledge as well.