I have a friend who worries me sometimes, with the way she drives. Don’t get me wrong; she is a very good person, and pretty darn smart, too! However, she just makes decisions behind the wheel that baffle me.
The main problem is that this friend doesn’t seem to give the road the attention and respect it deserves. She’s always fiddling with the radio, eating french fries, turning to talk to friends, and other stuff like that. The weird thing, though, is that she never texts and drives. She thinks that’s a terrible thing to do, and gets mad when she sees others doing it. However, she doesn’t seem to see the connection between her own distracted driving habits and the problem that texting and driving causes.
I want to talk to my friend about this, but she’s pretty sensitive about her driving. Experts, can you give me any insight into how dangerous this is, and how I might approach her about it?
The practices you describe are dangerous. The unfortunate truth is that you have every right to worry. Your friend puts herself, everyone in her car, and everyone else on the road in danger with actions like these.
The dangers of distracted driving are very, very real. In 2016, nearly 3,500 people were killed in car accidents involving distracted drivers. Almost 400,000 were injured in distracted driving-related crashes the year before. Your friend could end up in the hospital, or worse. Injuries and legal issues could sap her savings, and lingering injuries could even prevent her from working and earning a living, say long-term disability lawyers in Vancouver. If she’s caught in the act, or if her distracted driving is discovered after a crash, she could face criminal charges, traffic citations, and other consequences. She could lose her driver’s license, pay fines, or even, in an extreme case, end up in jail. This is all without considering the way that civil laws could make her pay. If your friend harms or kills someone else with her driving habits, laws could hold her liable for a great deal of money, says one auto accident attorney in South Carolina.
It seems that your friend understands, on some level, that distracted driving is a bad idea. She sees that texting and driving is a bad idea, and she’s right. If a driver traveling at 55 miles per hour takes their eyes off the road for five seconds to read a text message, their car will travel the distance of a football field while they drive blind!
It sounds like you should encounter no trouble getting your friend to agree that this is a terrifying statistic. However, try asking her this: does it have to be a cell phone?
Our states have laws against texting and cell phone use while driving for a simple reason. It’s a common form of distracted driving. Smartphones exist everywhere these days, say experts. Ownership numbers increase each day, which means that more and more drivers will start toting smartphones. However, some of them use their devices when they shouldn’t. An incredible 26% of all car crashes involve cell phone use, so our lawmakers decided it was a good idea to make it easier for police to stop distracted drivers. A police officer can see if a person is texting or making a cell phone call (without a hands-free device) and react fast. A ticket should deter the offender from making that mistake again.
However, let’s be clear: cell phone and texting laws exist because it’s easy to apply them and affect a huge percentage of distracted drivers--not because those forms of distracted driving bring more danger than others. Just because there may not be a specific law against turning to speak to a friend while driving does not mean that looking away from the road for five seconds for that reason is any safer. If you drive distracted, you are taking a huge risk--period.
If your friend needs proof don’t worry; we’ve got it. In 2009, a study found than a staggering 80% of car accidents were caused by--get this--drivers eating food. While smartphones helped mobile devices close the gap on the Big Macs, there’s no denying that science shows that meals and wheels do not mix.
Then, there’s the ultimate distraction machine: our own minds. Daydreaming can cause accidents, and it is disproportionately apt to cause fatal ones. In the early 2010s, researchers found that 62% of driving-related deaths had their roots, at least in part, in daydreaming drivers who had distracted themselves without the aid of the fast food and cell phones of which we’re so afraid.
This is not an exhaustive list, of course. Drivers look away from the road for all kinds of reasons, from digging down between their seats to rescue change to putting on their make-up. While e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, one e-juice retailer tells us that there’s one area in which they should be treated the same way: in the driver’s seat!
Your friend is smart to pay attention to reports of the dangers of texting and driving. She is smart to follow the law, too. However, she puts herself at risk by not seeing the larger logic that underlies all of our legal and personal efforts to cut down on distracted driving. In the end, the road does not care if you are distracted by a cell phone, your radio, your hamburger, your friends, or your own daydreams. If you aren’t paying attention to the road, you’re at risk.
Your friend may be sensitive about her driving. That’s understandable, and you should approach this conversation with tact. Emphasize that your concern is for her safety. Your priority should be to help her, not criticize her. Also, empathize, as best you can, with the mistakes she makes. The important thing is that she change her future behavior, not feel ashamed for her behavior in the past. With care and the powerful examples laid out above, you should have the ability to handle the conversation in a kind, polite manner. However, let us be clear: you do need to have this conversation! Your friend is putting herself and others in danger, and it needs to stop as soon as possible.
“A mere five letters can change someone’s life forever.” - Travis Burnhart