text driveMore than nine people are killed and 1,060 people are injured every day in vehicle crashes reported to involve a distracted driver. Distractions include using a mobile device or eating, the CDC says. New data out last week on texting and driving has me fuming. This is a bit of a rant, just like the last time I wrote about data on texting and driving.

I’ve got a loathing for the terrible American habit to text and drive. I loved Oprah’s 2009 pledge. I love the AT&T bumper stickers I keep seeing. But something has to change as these strategies aren’t getting people to put their phones down. The majority of us are using devices that take our thoughts, our hands, and our eyes off those obstacles that fly by at 60+ mph. In a CDC survey conducted here in the US and in 7 other European countries, residents of the US led the charge with texting and emailing while driving:

 

Over 2/3 of American adults reported talking on their cell phone and nearly 1/3 said they’d texted or emailed while driving in the previous 30 days

Americans are doing the worst job and we all tend to see someone texting when we’re on the road. Easy to spot them with their heads down and their weird braking patterns. In part, our habit and addiction to our devices may reflect the state-by state-variance in laws and permission. Only 33 states and Washington, DC restrict cell phone use in some way. The laws may be too permissive. Here in Washington, we can use cell phones if we have hands-free devices. I do my best to keep my phone out of reach (back seat) to avoid any temptation to grab it when I hear a beep. Yet this data makes me feel I should stop talking on it, too. I use my cell phone to talk via a blue-tooth device built into my car, but more than once I’ve had to hang up as I felt it compromised my level of attention. Data on hands-free cell phone use is looking decreasingly optimistic. There are studies claiming it’s no safer when your hands are free and The National Safety Council reports that “driving while talking on cell phones, handheld and hands-free, increases risk of injury and property damage crashes fourfold.”

I wonder if our pattern of device use reflects our incessant, demanding, intolerable work culture here in the US, too.

On the heels of our nation’s hearty conversation about working at home and corporate (in)flexibility for parents in the work place spawned most recently by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s new policy forbidding stay-at-home work, it has me thinking. Do we all just work “too” hard? Are we working in the wrong way trying to squeeze too much in?

I bring up work culture because I wonder if the pressure to respond rapidly to demands at work compromise our sensibilities. Are our priorities so askew that we feel we have to respond at the next stoplight?  Think of those Europeans who take August off…maybe they have figured someone out. Europeans aren’t texting or talking as much as we are when in the car.

In 2010, nearly one in five crashes (18%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving here in the US.

I suspect some people text and email their friends at 30 mph. But I bet many Americans texting from the front seat are just trying to get their work done…while driving.

A 2011 CDC Survey Just Published On Devices And Driving:

  • Online surveys of drivers aged 18–64 years revealed that the percentage of those who reported that they had talked on their cell phone while driving ranged from 21% in the United Kingdom to 69% in the United States.
  • The percentage of those who reported that they had read or sent text or e-mail messages while driving ranged from 15% in Spain to 31% in Portugal and the United States.
  • A significantly larger percentage of both men and women aged 25–44 years reported talking on a cell phone while driving compared with those aged 55–64 years, and a significantly larger percentage of men and women aged 18–34 years reported that they had read or sent text or e-mail messages while driving compared with those aged 45–64 years.

Teen are more dangerous drivers particularly in their first 6 months of driving. Young drivers under age 20 have the highest proportion of distracted driving fatal crashes. We can teach them to keep their purse/bag/backpack and cell phone in the back seat from the beginning.

What can the rest of us do? Am I way off thinking work may play a role in this?