Texting & Driving: How To Spot The Texter

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Cell Phone Use and the Law

When it comes to cell phone use while driving, Illinois is a “hands free” state. A law that was enacted at the beginning of this year makes it illegal to use a cell phone (unless hands-free) while driving…period. This obviously makes texting illegal, or at least it’s supposed to be.

And there is sufficient reason for it to be illegal. It has been estimated that 25% of all automobile accidents involve cell phone use, and that a texting driver takes his or her attention away from driving for at least five seconds. At 55 mph, you could cover the length of a football field without looking up from your phone. That’s a lot of ‘first downs’!

So cell phone use has been targeted because it’s just plain dangerous. Yet it seems more and more people are texting while driving, undoubtedly because almost ¾ of young adults feel they can do so safely. For this reason alone, you should do your best to avoid drivers that are busy using their cell phones. But how can you know who is texting while driving? Let’s make this into a game…sort of. Call it; Spot the Texter!

Three Signs of Distracted Drivers

While I was driving to work this morning, I began playing a little game – prompted by the erratic driving of the person directly in front of me. As I followed this person for a mile or so, I came to the realization that (while not an expert) there are basically three distinct patterns exhibited by drivers who are distracted by their phones.

These are loss of awareness, loss of speed control, and loss of vehicle control. And trust me, if you run into someone on the road displaying these patterns, pull along side them (if you dare) to confirm that I’m right. They are likely on their phone.

1. Loss of Awareness

Common to the point of madness, loss of awareness happens to the best of us. However, total lack of regard for the activity we call driving can have significant consequences. If you drive where stop lights are plentiful, you will probably encounter someone that doesn’t realize when lights have changed color…and how would they.

Without watching the road, they are not aware of what is actually happening around them. They rely on subtle clues to influence their actions. So when a car next to them begins to slow down – they slow down. When traffic along side moves, they move. The problem is, what is happening in the lane next to you may not be what’s happening in YOUR lane.

2. Loss of Speed Control

How many times have you come upon someone driving well below the speed limit just to find that he or she is deeply involved in a conversation? Once is plenty, but it happens so frequently that you may want to rally for imposition of the death penalty to eliminate these scofflaws. The misconception is that going well below the speed limit only effects lead-footed drivers.

However, many accidents are caused when law-abiding drivers are forced to take maneuvers to avoid someone that is on their cell or texting, disrupting the orderly flow of traffic. Loss of speed control is underrated as a factor in accidents.

3. Loss of Vehicle Control

Imagine our nations roadways set up like bowling alleys – with those “kiddie bumpers” installed in the gutters. Now you have an idea of how texting drivers look as they careen from side to side in the blind chase to their destination.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to be in control of your vehicle when you are looking away from the road, since the information gathered by your eyes is imperative for the proper signals to be sent to your body parts responsible for operating your car.

This is why blind people are not issued drivers’ licenses! If you are driving by feel, trust me…the feel of hitting a stationary object with your car will be enough to remind you that your eyes are important to the process of driving. Yet we see it every day. You have probably had to avoid someone within the last week who wandered aimlessly into your lane while texting dinner plans to a friend.

Breaking the Trend

It may be too late to change people’s attitudes about cell phone use. In Illinois, making laws hasn’t made a difference, and across the country, it seems the epidemic is spreading. In order to break the trend, we must start with ourselves. Each of us must make a commitment, to ourselves and our fellow drivers. If you are one of the few on this planet that hasn’t used a cell phone while driving…good for you!

The rest of us need to take stock in the fact that this extremely dangerous activity is – frankly – unnecessary. If you need to talk or text while driving, get off the road. Find a spot away from traffic and use your phone until your ears bleed. No worries, Text until your thumbs come off. At least you won’t hurt anyone else in the process. We CAN make a difference.

In the meantime, I will be watching, and waiting…tying to spot the texter. For now, the hunting is easy.

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Dale Schahczinski
Goal driven team leader, with industry experience spanning all aspects of operations and administration.