“It doesn’t matter what I do … it doesn’t matter what I accomplish; that will always come second. I will always be Reggie Shaw, the person who took two lives in a car accident” (Macavinta 1). These are the words from a man who was a part of an upcoming epidemic for the world, distracted driving. It was a rainy morning on September 22, 2006, and a young teen Reggie Shaw was on his daily commute from Tremonton to Logan on Valley View Highway. In a single instant, his life was changed forever. Driving his Chevy utility truck Shaw looked down at his phone and sent a text to his girlfriend. This text cost two lives. Shaw crossed the yellow middle lines and hit the back of an oncoming car carrying scientists Keith O’Dell and Jim Furfaro. The scientists had spun out of control and have been T-boned by a car trailing carrying John Kaiser. John had been trailing Shaw for a few minutes and had sensed that something was wrong with Shaw. Time was against the men and john flew into the scientists killing them immediately ( Macavinta 1-5). “I live every single day in regret,” Shaw said in a phone interview last week. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. It has been 2,919 days. Eight years. It’s still hard; I still struggle; I have to get help. It’s hard but I deserve it” (Macavinta 6). In 2006 there were no laws in the U.S restricting the use of cellphones while driving, this accident had brought attention to many. Later, after the accident neuroscientists, Dr. Adam Gazzaley in San Francisco was intrigued by the new technology that had been taking over society and wanted to study what looking at cellular devices does to your brain when you multitask with it. Dr.Gazzely’s tests had begun to show results. He set up brain imaging devices in his lab: magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography scans, and electroencephalograms. He had students do a driving simulator and sent a text to them in the middle of it to see how the brain reacts. His outtake of the tests was that “The eyes are open but the brain’s not processing all the information” (Henneberg 4-8). Dr.Gazzaley says this is why Shaw can not remember the accident. The Utah prosecutors set up a case against Shaw, charging him with negligent homicide, a misdemeanor. Once Shaw had looked at his record history of phone calls and texts, he pleaded guilty (Henneberg 5) . He responded by saying “I can’t even put it into words. And to see a law passed that would prevent people from texting while driving would mean a lot to me, to be able to know that nobody else would have to go through what I’ve gone through. That they would be aware of the dangers that this text message is, and what it can do, and the effects it can have” (Henneberg 4). Shaw only served eighteen days in jail and had to do community service. According to The National Safety Council, this was only one of the 1.6 million crashes per year are caused by cellphones. Technology now in this day and age has evolved since the last decade. Now technology is in everyone’s grasp, almost anyone can attain it. The sad thing now is that people decide to use it at the wrong time causing it to be fatal, and the United States has tracked down on this in the past years and tried making laws restricting some forms of distracted driving. Many people believe that the laws that are set now are solid enough to keep distracted driving in check, but they are far from right. Distracted driving is still a serious threat to society and stronger laws and regulations must be set and put in place.
So what is classified as distracted driving and how do people see it? According to dictionary.com distracted driving is defined as the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity, typically one that involves the use of a mobile phone or another electronic device. In other words, distracted driving means anything that causes the driver to not look at the road is specified to distracted driving. ‘Basically, if you’re doing anything other than driving, you’re distracted,’ Stibbe said.Some examples of distracted driving are using a cellphone, texting, using any handheld device, using a navigation system, putting on makeup, turning and talking to passengers, taking a selfie, going through pictures, and reading. These examples many would believe to be outrageous and out of pocket but these things do happen in today’s world because of all the new technology and new items to distract people from what is a priority. There are three types of distracted driving. The first is visual. This is where your eyes are off the road, for example, texting and driving. The second being manual. which is where your hands are off the wheel for example typing in a GPS. The third is cognitive. This is where your mind is off the road for example, when you are using a system that is not hand-held like Bluetooth. There are many forms of distracted driving and they are seen all over the world
When people think of distracted driving they all automatically think of texting and driving. For the past decade news, laws, and stories were told and placed to stop this form of texting and driving. Commercials were put on television, and classes were made to prevent young drivers from participating in distracted driving, but these things are not stopping society from doing it. According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey between the age group of 16-24 years old is where texting while driving is the highest. This is believed to be because this age group is where the boom of technology happened. This age group was born into new game systems, new machines, and new and improved technology. Things have only been increasing more and more since 2000. Texting and driving are so heavily thought with distracted driving because of the awareness around the world, but why is the awareness so high? It is because of all the tragedies, accidents, and fatalities that are linked with it. Each year there are many families that are affected by texting and driving, being a family member that dies or you are a victim of it. In 2010 366 people died due to texting while driving, in 2011 354 people did, in 2012 380 people died, in 2013 411 people died because of it, in 2014 385 people did, in 2015 452 people had died due to texting while driving ( Graph NHTSA ). Over the years we can see an increase in deaths caused by texting and driving. In 2010, 16,000 people were injured due to texting and driving, in 2011 15,000 people were injured, in 2012 21,000 people were injured, in 2013 24,000 people were injured, in 2014 22,000 people were injured, in 2015 27,000 people were injured. Injuries have also increased. Lastly, property damage has also happened because of texting and driving. In 2010 30,000 accidents affecting property , in 2011 35,000 accidents with property , In 2012 39,000 accidents , in 2013 47,000 accidents , and in 2014 49,000 accidents with property (Graph NHTSA). These statistics are only from the United States and are only specifically to texting and driving. Texting and driving is so heavily associated with distracted driving, one for being a form of it, and two it is the highest death and injury reported for a form of distracted driving
The number of Pedestrian deaths in the U.S has reached a new high due to crashes being caused by cell phone use while driving in 2018 ( Calvert 1). An estimated amount of 6,227 people died in foot crashes in the U.S last year, the most since 1990. Pedestrian deaths now are about 16% of the total deaths caused by car accidents. The percent has increased by 5 percent since the last decade ( Calvert 2). The cause of this is the new technology and new items that can distract new and experienced drivers and cause them to be unaware of what’s in their environment for the seconds they look down or away. In 2016 more than 9 percent of the United States, traffic deaths or 3,450 deaths were linked to distracted driving. This number is insanely high and the problem is only getting worse. Surveys were taken by the IIHS RoadSide company and in 2014 they studied and had people admit to distracted driving and since that survey in 2014, they found that new drivers in 2018 are 57% more likely to text and drive ( “Cellphone Interactions By”). ‘It doesn’t seem to be going down,’ said Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF). Generally, it’s still about 25 percent of fatals.’ Distracted driving to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation believes a quarter of car accidents are caused by some form of distracted driving (Tchir 4-11). Just like Dr.Gazzley’s experiment showing how people are incapable of doing 2 things at once while driving another Dr. David Strayer ran a series of tests that were similar to his. Dr. David Strayer. He had the head volunteer from the University of Utah put on all different types of equipment which would show the results from the tests. These equipment were an electroencephalograph, electrodes around the eyes, a headband attached with a GoPro camera. In her peripheral vision was a handheld led light. Four LifeCam cameras were placed in the cabin of the car to capture the driver’s facial expressions. Some wires were snaked off the brakes and the steering wheel ( Henneberg 25 ). Non-hand-held devices were created in desperation from stopping distracted driving. With non-hand-held devices such as Bluetooth, Siri, and other systems many believed texting and driving and distracted driving would be put to a stop and decrease. Dr. Strayer’s purpose of his experiment was to show that these non-handheld devices were still a high distraction to drivers ( Henneberg 29 ). He had the driver with the equipment on her do 8 tasks. They were first to drive to get bottom-line data, then drive while listening to the radio, then listen to a book on tape, then talk to a passenger, then talk on a handheld device, talk on handheld free device, use the cars speech device, and completing an automated math problem ( Henneberg 34). In all of the tasks, brain activity has shown to increase and showed that the driver’s attention was 64 % off the road, which is more than half ( Henneberg 42 ). According to Carnegie Mellon psychology professor Marcel Just, “This has direct implications for cell phone use during driving because it answers one of the classic questions about human thinking. We’ve demonstrated that the human brain has a limited ability to perform two cognitive tasks concurrently under demanding circumstances, such as simultaneously conversing and driving ” ( Henneberg 46 ). Doing two things at the same time has been proven to decrease the brain’s activity while driving, making distracted driving very dangerous and a hazard. These tests have proven this but it seems that a lot of drivers do not care about it. In 2009 the AAA foundation ran a survey about if drivers care about texting and driving and the dangers and 91.5 percent of the drivers had said texting and driving was a threat to everyone’s safety. This percent is very high but with all the people that were surveyed, they were also asked to be honest and say if they talk on the phone and text while driving. Two-thirds of the people had said that they talk on the phone while driving and that they text while driving one out of the seven days in a week (Hanes 8). Today’s society is aware of the dangers but it seems many do not care about it until they are affected personally.
Distracted driving has highly affected today’s society and has become such a big threat to all people on the road. Many accidents, deaths, damage to property and many other things have happened to people and their families. When will society finally wake up and put their phones down when doing something. It seems like our phones are glued to our hands and they are our hearts and souls. The laws on distracted driving and texting while driving need to be enforced stronger. There can not be a couple of states that allow both and to not have a consequence on doing it. The roadways are a death trap to those that drive on them in this case. For those who think the laws are fine and doing a good job, they are wrong too many deaths and accidents are happening every day due to distracted driving, and now is the time for everyone to open their eyes and chip in on stopping this epidemic.