In my house I have two cell phones, a laptop, a tablet, and 3 TV’s (two of them are smart TV’s) and an Apple TV. How many devices do you have? Studies show that the average adult spends at least 8.5 hours each day in front of a screen and children average 6-7.5 hours of screen time per day depending on their age. We have become so used to constant communication and having instant access to information that our society continues to add more and more electronic distractions. These technological advances have allowed us to be more efficient in many ways, however, at what cost does that efficiency come?
When you go to a restaurant or walk down the street, have you ever just taken a moment to look around? Everyone is on a cell phone calling someone, texting, or snapping pictures. We live in such a connected world where SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook, texts, emails and photos can sometimes take priority over everything else. It is a large part of our everyday experience whether we are in our homes, in our cars or walking to/from work or school. The distractions are constant. As drivers, we get in our cars and we’re still on our phones, we’re adjusting the radio or GPS, we’re drinking coffee, putting on make-up, etc. And even as pedestrians, one of the most vulnerable roadway users, we have on headphones listening to music, we’re eating, texting friends/family, and maybe even using our devices to finish work we didn’t get to the night before.
Always staying connected has become our new normal, but can we really afford for it to be? Think about these statistics:
Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.
According to Safekids.org, pedestrian-vehicle injuries are the fifth leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 19.
Text messaging while driving makes the chance of an accident 23 times more likely.
Children who talk on cell phones while crossing streets are 43 percent more likely to be hit by a car than when their phones are turned off.
Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. To give that some perspective, a car going 55mph can travel the length of an entire football field in 5 seconds.
From these statistics and hearing the stories and experiences of family and friends, the message is clear: distractions are dangerous and can be fatal.
So how do we ditch these distractions? This is a question of deadly importance. With the culture of distraction that has developed, we are losing focus on our surroundings and putting our safety and the safety of those around us in jeopardy. What can you do? Try these steps:
1) Evaluate – take this month, Distracted Driving Awareness month to take note of what things are occupying your attention not only while you’re driving but also while you’re walking. You may be surprised at how many things you have never noticed along your daily route.
2) Act – Make a personal decision to watch where you are going and to always be aware of your surroundings. Be intentional and unplug from devices when driving, walking, or biking. You’ll probably notice that you get to your destination faster and reduced your chances of not getting there at all. This alone may save a life! Parents, remember that your little ones are always watching so lead by example.
3) Share – Spread the word about the dangers of distractions. Teens share these important messages with your friends and don’t be afraid to speak up when someone is doing something that could harm themselves or others. Parents, talk to your children about the consequences of distractions. Also, take some time to walk and/or bike with your children to/from school so that they know how to do it safely.
We all have our part to play in keeping one another safe and saving lives. Whether you’re at home, behind the wheel, or on foot, don’t take your safety for granted. Keeping in touch is important, but it is more important to be alive to get the message.
By Nadji T. Kirby
Safe Routes to School Coordinator, Montgomery County Department of Transportation
* Statistics in this article were sourced from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Textinganddrivingsafety.com, Center for Disease Control, and results of a University of Alabama-Birmingham study.