We all know that drinking and driving is seriously dangerous. But did you know that texting and driving is actually more dangerous than driving drunk? The truth is that people who text and drive are 23times more likely to be in a road crash than other drivers. Yet most South Africans are not concerned enough about the implications of texting and driving. Currently South Africa experiences about 16 000 deaths a year on the roads (10 times more than Sweden and three times more than the US).

With this in mind a campaign was created for Arrive Alive bringing home the very real danger of texting and driving. The aim was to convey that when you text and drive you are a danger not only to yourself but to others too.

Distracted Driving and Statistics

Distracted driving is a broad term that includes a wide variety of driving behaviours. You can be distracted behind the wheel by talking on a mobile phone held in your hand, talking on a phone using an earpiece, or talking on a phone using a hands-free system embedded in your car. Research in the US showed that every day last year more than 750 000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cellphone. Distracted driving, however, wasn’t limited to that…

Distractions include eating or drinking a cup of coffee or adjusting the channel on your radio. You can be distracted by an iPod that’s not playing what you want, or a passenger, or a map or paper with directions on it. You can be distracted by a sports game on the radio, roadside distractions etc.

It is difficult to accurately document vehicle crashes caused by driver distractions, especially those distractions caused by texting. The last thing an accident victim might confess is that his texting caused the accident…

Most of the research on texting and driving is done in vehicle simulated driving conditions. Drivers are tested with motion sensors and computer graphics creating realistic motorway routes.

Some tests done in simulators suggest that talking on a phone, no matter how it’s done, sharply elevates the risk of an accident. Researchers studying brain imaging documented that listening alone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%.

According to the US Department of Transportation, there were at least 515,000 injuries and 5,870 fatalities in the US in 2008 as a result of distracted driving—these numbers are taken from police reports, so the actual numbers could be quite a bit higher.

Even though there might not be sufficient statistics on how many people are driving and texting, there is enough information to say that texting shouldn’t be permitted while driving!

Why is texting such a threat to road safety?

Drivers generally understand that drink-driving is a serious risk, but have less of an understanding of the dangers of texting. Those who are aware of the impairment to their driving are not aware of how great this impairment is. The Transport Research Laboratory found that motorists who use their mobile phone to send text messages while on the road dramatically increase the likelihood of collision.

Studies have suggested that texting while driving is riskier than driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A combination of factors leads to impairments of reaction time and vehicle control which places the driver at greater risk than having consumed alcohol and getting behind the steering wheel.

For more information visit www.arrivealive.co.za

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