The other day I was going to work and passing a car, when the driver decided to claim my side of the road. For a moment, I was “Bo” from “The Dukes of Hazzard” behind the wheel of the “General Lee” fighting my way back onto pavement. The other driver? On their phone. Oblivious to what just happened. I just experienced first-hand the danger of distracted driving. We’re bombarded with disturbing statistics.
*Talk and drive, you’re 4 times more likely to get into an accident.
*Text and drive, 20 times more likely.
*2600 traffic deaths/year are caused by drivers on cell phones (Harvard study).
To drive home the point, the federal government has some hard hitting and graphic PSA’s running that show what can happen. Also, individual states continue to jump on board, cracking down with distracted driving laws and punishments of their own.
Tulsa Police Cpl. Darren Bristow teaches classes on defensive driving and preaches the dangers of distractions while behind the wheel. He says, “It’s taking your attention away from the actual driving process. When you’re operating a motor vehicle down the roadways your attention needs to be focused on not only on what’s in front of you, but also to the sides of you, using peripheral vision.”
Does talking and texting really distract your attention from driving? NewsChannel 8 set up an elaborate test at our station, using 11 cameras, six unsuspecting people, and an obstacle course to find out. We gave them a cell phone, and I barked out orders as they sprinted through the course. They also had to read their directions by text during their run. We told them they were being tested on how well and quickly they follow directions under stress. What we didn’t tell them is that we wanted to see if they would be so distracted by listening and reading my directions, that they might miss some obvious things around them.
Would they see the:
- girl holding a dog
- picture of Mickey Mouse on the wall
- clown standing a few feet from one of their stops
- toxic water warning on the fountain
- baby doll on a changing table
- sign saying, “use other door”
- $100 bill
- “do not cross” warning on the sidewalk
After the six ran through our course, we broke the news to them about what it was really about.
And the results are eye-opening.
- None saw the picture of Mickey
- Just one spotted the baby.
- The girl and dog went practically unnoticed. Even those who looked right at them, later said they didn’t see anything!
- All six drank the “toxic” water, even those who noticed the warning.
- Everyone barged through the wrong door.
- Only one spied the “C” note.
- The sidewalk warning was totally ignored.
- And the clown (surely they would see that)? 4 out of 6 didn’t see him. (As one said, “There was a clown? I didn’t see a clown!”)
It may be funny to see people running down a hallway with cell phones to their ears, as a clown watches on. But Cpl. Bristow says “tunnel vision” while driving has far more serious and dangerous consequences. “There’s always a deviation whether it’s construction or a stalled car, the drunk driver, the other person on his cell phone,” Bristow says. ”You have to have your eyes and full attention focused on your driving rather than your cell phone.”
A few comments from our surprised participants, who all say they text and drive:
- “Sure makes me stop and think.”
- “Focus on what you’re doing.”
- “We feel that texts are so urgent that we need to get back right that second. We can’t just wait to get where we’re going.”
- “After what we’ve done today, it really changes my mind.
I know, reaching for the cell phone for a call or text while driving is a hard habit to break. But will new laws, graphic PSA’s, some sobering statistics, and an obstacle course down a hallway really change our habits behind the wheel? If all that won’t, I don’t know what will.