Texting, driving, and Lake Wobegon

Do you have a story of a near hit by a texting driver? Please post it in the comments.

If you’re an above average driver, this is for you.

Yesterday on KGO Radio (a San Francisco AM talk radio station), the mid morning talk show took listener calls for their thoughts on Oprah Winfrey’s crusade to discourage texting while driving.

The phoned in comments were an eye opener for me, to say the least. The first call came from a 24 year old in Woodside (natch). “I grew up with all this amazing technology, and because these old people can’t handle it I am not allowed to use it!” he whined. ( …and they say cyclists are entitled…. ) “I text while driving and I’ve never had an accident,” he continued.

Caller after caller complained about California’s anti-texting law. Even those who acknowledged the danger of texting while driving confessed they wouldn’t sign Oprah’s no texting pledge because they don’t plan to give it up. “I’m perfectly safe texting while driving,” was a common sentiment. “Just because those other idiots can’t handle the technology doesn’t mean I’m dangerous.”

Let me clue you in on a little known fact: Almost every driver considers themselves above average, but we clearly cannot all be above average. Just like the above average children of Lake Wobegon, your superior driving skills and mine are fiction.

Overestimating our driving skills results in less caution and awareness on the roads, and the callers who claim to drive safely while texting are a perfect example of this lack of caution. It reminds me so much of some of my college pals who claimed they were safer driving drunk than they were driving sober. The truth is they just didn’t realize how dangerous their driving was because they were so out of it!

People who text and drive are not aware of how dangerous their driving is because they’re not even paying attention! You don’t notice that you just ran a red light, because everybody else in the cross street slammed on their brakes as you plowed on through. You don’t notice that you’ve drifted halfway into the next lane over, and the driver in that lane had to take evasive action to avoid the collision.

I see this stuff all the time in the Bay Area – drivers (all of them above average, I’m sure) who barely avoid killing somebody and don’t even realize that they were just inches from a major accident. I wonder how many of these hit and runs of cyclists and pedestrians are motorists who blithely run over somebody without realizing it and then puzzle over the body damage on their car a week later. They probably assume they were the victim of a parking lot scrape.

In case you haven’t heard, studies reveal that texting is at least as dangerous as driving drunk.

  • Car & Driver did a comparison, and saw reaction times while texting are worse than driving over the limit.
  • University of Utah found texting is more dangerous than DUI. And that same study shows that texting is even more dangerous than talking.
  • Motorists who text while driving are six times more likely to crash than those who don’t. If you believe you’re a safe driver while texting, you’re lying to yourself.
  • If you believe your youth is an advantage, watch this video of teens, “very experienced texters,” who crashed their cars in a driving simulator. Sadly, the teens participating in the study still believe they can get away with text while driving. “Usually I have enough time to react, so I’m not worried about it.”

  • Here’s a bus driver in San Antonio who rear ended an SUV while texting. [Caution: He says a lot of very naughty words.] I don’t know how old driver Adrian Perez is, but I’m guessing he’s under 30. Adrian is the reason truck and bus drivers are now banned from texting while on the job.

  • I know graphic “scared straight” presentations are ineffective — the people (and by “the people” what I really mean is “you”) who this is targeted to don’t think this applies to them (when I write “them” what I really mean is “you”) — but I’ll post this one from the UK anyway. This isn’t the complete video but I can’t find the rest of the series at the moment.

Summary:

  • You probably are not an above average driver.
  • You are not as safe as you think you are when you text

HTH. I need to run and cook dinner now (I’m typing this up on Thursday night) so I don’t have time to elaborate on why this is so important to cyclists. Please feel free to comment with your own thoughts, experiences with near hits, and news local to you where a cyclist was killed or maimed by a texting driver.

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