You’ve heard the myth. Installing hands-free technology in your car makes it safe for you to talk or text on your cellphone while driving. Unfortunately, this deadly myth is exactly that, a myth. Actually, it’s a lie with no basis whatsoever in truth.
The National Safety Council wants you and everyone else to know that hands-free is not synonymous with risk-free. In fact, quite the contrary. It’s the activity itself that distracts you, not the methodology you use to accomplish it.
The problem is the way in which your brain works. It may surprise you to know that, despite the huge emphasis placed on multitasking nowadays, your brain can only do one thing at a time. Consequently, when you use your cellphone while driving, even hands-free, your brain’s capacity to see and process movement around you decreases by 33%. Even more frightening, its capacity to see and process stationary objects around you decreases by a full 50%.
Do you really want to drive with only half a brain? If you do, maybe the other half of your brain isn’t working properly either.
Social media and our addiction to it are the two big culprits here. The 2019 Distracted Driving and Social Media Report reveals that 55% of drivers admit to checking their social media while behind the wheel. An amazing 25% even admit to recording a video while driving.
When it comes to people who admit to using a cellphone while driving, the demographics break down as follows:
- Women: 53.99%
- Men: 46.01%
- Age 18–29: 28.31%
- Age 30–44: 19.46%
- Age 45–60: 30.54%
- Age over 60: 21.69%
Obviously, parents and grandparents are just as guilty, if not more so, than teenagers and other young drivers. As Laura Adams, safety and education analyst at DriversEd.com recently observed, “For many drivers, health and safety take a backseat to their likes and shares.”
The other main distracted driving culprit behind the cellphone usage while driving phenomenon is human perception. Or more to the point, misperception. We never believe that scary statistics apply to us, only to other people. In addition, 93% of American drivers firmly believe that they are in the top 50% of safe drivers. Really?
It’s no wonder that everyone gives lip service to “don’t text and drive” slogans, but few people actually put their habits where their mouths are.
What You Can Do
The most important thing you can do to stop the slaughter on America’s roads and highways is to make the commitment to put your #phonedown while driving. If you don’t believe you can control yourself if it’s in your pocket or purse, put it in your back seat or even your trunk while driving.
If you’re a parent, the most important thing you can do for your children’s future safety is to be a good example. If you don’t use your cellphone while driving the whole time they’re growing up, they are far less likely not to use theirs when they start driving themselves. It’s like seatbelt usage. Neither you nor your kids would even consider riding in a car without your seatbelts fastened. Make your cellphone just as high of a priority as your seatbelt. Never use it while driving. Period.