According to the National Safety Council, in 2009 over 1/2 million crashes were attributable to handheld & hands-free cell phone use and texting (23% of all crashes that year). What’s even more disturbing is that the vast majority of these were not caused by drivers who were texting (only 3%)- but all were human error.
“Change Your Message” is a simple, easy and no cost way for you to stop making other drivers random targets of your own inattention. By making a simple change to your voice mail message, and a simple change to your driving habits, you change your visual message as well for all other drivers to see (and follow).
Why are cell phones present in so many crashes? Taking your eyes off the road to see who’s calling, dialing or looking up a number is certainly part of the issue. Taking your hands off the wheel to manipulate the device is another root cause of crashes- no doubt about it. But equal to these is the issue of reduced attention that occurs when you are engaged in a phone conversation. As you converse on the phone your awareness is dulled, your attention to driving competes with the conversation and you constantly swap your focus between the conversation and your physical environment- it’s only human.
As you do so your reaction time to unexpected events increases significantly, your vehicle is more prone to lane departures, and miss details that you might otherwise readily see– all from conducting a remote phone conversation while driving.
The frequency and duration of cell phone calls for drivers actually make this a prevalent factor in crashes than more risky behaviors, like texting, but both contribute to significant injuries and death each year.
Over 30 studies support the fact that there is not a significant difference in risk level between hands free and handheld phone conversations (see a full report here). It’s the distraction of the mind that is significant and what has been labeled ‘inattention blindness’; which simply put is looking straight ahead but not perceiving what is in front of you (Learn more about inattention blindness). Therefore, the only practical way to reduce your risk is to not use your phone while you drive.
Like with drunk driving or any other form of impaired driving, laws won’t do all of the work to reduce injuries and deaths related to this one distraction. The bottom line is this: the culture of distracted driving won’t change unless WE change how we drive. Every time you see a driver using a cell phone it sends the message to all that this call or text outweighs the safety of every child or adult in front of their vehicle.
So how do I Change My Message? It’s easy. Simply take the pressure away from yourself to use your cell phone if you are driving. Here’s how:
1) Change the busy message on your cell phone to something like this:
“Hi, you’ve reached (Pat) and I’m either busy or driving. Please leave a message and I will return it as soon as I am able. And take my advice, don’t drive distracted.”
2) Tell all of your contacts that might call your cell phone that you decided to take a personal stand against distracted driving. So if they call you when you are driving, you will call them back as soon as you can pull over or have reached your destination.
Now just drive! If your phone makes a noise and you think it might be important, find a safe place to pull off the road and respond to it. Otherwise, think about your new voice mail message and know that the person calling you will understand that you are driving and may not call them back until later. You can also think about the message you are sending to other drivers by concentrating on your driving, and the difference your choice is making in the world!
What about other drivers? Change takes time but until there are more laws that address the issue of distracted driving we have to make it socially unacceptable- in much the way smoking has become. Also, when you know you are talking to another person who is driving, do the right thing for their safety: tell them to call you back when they have stopped.
What are the benefits? Look at these benefits for Businesses, Schools, Parents, Groups and Organizations and Individuals.
Looking for a free, personalized Pledge to end your own distracted driving? Request one here!