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Sometimes news stories make you want to not live on this planet anymore. Or at least stop driving. Over the last few years, drivers across the nation have been facing a growing safety threat due to the insidious presence of distracted drivers. Thanks to the hyperconnectivity of social media and messaging apps, it can be hard for many people to put down their phones even for a few minutes – including while behind the wheel. Unfortunately (and obviously), this leads to thousands of easily preventable traffic deaths. Despite ongoing public awareness campaigns in many states, it turns out most of us completely disregard facts and believe texting while driving isn’t as dangerous as data reveal. Who needs experts and concrete data, am I right?
A new study published by the Society for Risk analysis has found that many drivers around the world still don’t believe distracted driving to be dangerous – even though having a conversation on a mobile device increases the likelihood of crash risk by 2.2 times and texting increases the same risk by 6.1 times. In a survey of 447 drivers in South East Queensland, Australia, the researchers found that 68% of drivers reported that they need more evidence before they believe that texting and driving is dangerous.
One of the researchers involved in the study, Australia Queensland University of Technology’s Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios, says that ultimately, it’s never safe to use the phone while behind the wheel. “Drivers are not good at identifying where it is safe to use their phone,” Oviedo-Trespalacios says. “It is safer for drivers to just pull over in an appropriate place to use their phone quickly and then resume their journey.”
Despite the many new laws and public awareness campaigns designed to curb distracted driving, phone use behind the wheel is still expected to increase. What can be done about this ever-growing threat? Some states require distracted driving offenders to attend online traffic school or online driver’s ed, while others are increasing penalties for being caught texting and driving. Are tougher laws enough, or is a major shift in public perception needed? Let’s hope a benevolent wizard appears and makes that happen instantaneously with a wave of his staff, because at this rate it seems like that’s what it’s going to take.