There’s no question that ‘distracted driving’ can be deadly – so why are so many of us reluctant to take a stand against it?
Emma BrockesLast modified on Tue 13 Feb 2018 13.08 GMT
‘Many of us have the delusion that when we’re on our phones, we control them rather than the other way round.’
A friend drove me to work the other day and, while she was driving, picked up a call on her cellphone. It was a short conversation and after she hung up, she apologized, but the episode left me feeling uncomfortable. Should I have called her out or am I overreacting?
I suspect you don’t need me to tell you that your nervousness is well-founded: the statistics on car accidents and phone use are incontrovertible. In 2015, approximately 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured, in car crashes caused by “distracted driving”.
So this should be a simple one. If a friend lit up a cigarette over your newborn, you would shriek at the friend to put it out. You wouldn’t hesitate to remind a driver to put on her seatbelt. But for some reason, casual phone use at the wheel is something that many of us either do ourselves, or tolerate when others do it, even though it is almost as dangerous as drinking and driving.
This reluctance is partly to do with sketchy enforcement. But it might also have to do with the relative newness of the technology and the delusion many of us have that when we’re on our phones, we control them rather than the other way round. It is universally understood that when you drink, you lose control, often while comically insisting you’re still capable; when you text or talk on the phone, by contrast, it is possible to persuade yourself that (a) you can break off at any minute, and that (b) you are not performance-impaired.
Experience tells us that neither of these things is true and yet we persist with the rationalizations: it’s just a two-minute call; I’m accustomed to multi-tasking; I’m really, really concentrating on the road. All of which is fine until another driver, also on his cellphone, behaves erratically in front of you and your delayed response time catastrophically alters the outcome.