The use of mobile phones has spread like an epidemic for the last decades. They have become an indispensable part of the everyday life for many US residents. The majority of Americans depend on them as phones help to perform their daily operations. Unfortunately, many of such processes occur while people are driving. Therefore, many incidents have taken place in the last decade because of applying mobile phones while being on a road. The problem is that the process of talking and messaging creates a serious distraction for drivers. Although distracted driving is not a new issue as such aspects as drinking, eating, checking maps, checking radio, and talking to passengers have been diverting drivers for decades. However, the digital age accompanied by the introduction of cell phones and texting has made distractions even more dangerous than they previously were. The cases of fatal vehicle accidents related to the use of phones have significantly increased for the past few years. As a result, cell phones used while driving has turned into a monster that scares the US society today. Understanding a necessity of banning the use of phones on the road provides an insight into the aspects that frightens the American community and the problems caused by calling and texting while driving.
An Overview of Cell Phone Usage while Driving
In the modern society, more and more people use phones to carry out necessary operations while driving vehicles. In America, in 2008, there were over 215 million cellular users, 100 million of which applied these gadgets on the road. In 2012, the number of people having cell phones increased to more than 275 million. Meanwhile, approximately 81% of them admits talking and texting while driving. The statistics show that the percentage of individuals using technologies on the road increase each year. A high percentage of people using phones on roads also shows that people ignore the policies developed by states concerning the prohibition of phone usage while driving.
The level of cell phone usage is different in various regions of the United States. For instance, in 2004, up to 3.7% of all drivers living in Minnesota talked or texted messages while driving during daytime whereas in Washington, approximately 6% of all drivers conversed on cell phones the same year. In New York, where the city banned the use of hand-held cell phones in a car, the situation is not much different. Near 3% of drivers used these devices and only 0.4% applied hands-free gadgets. The evidence shows that the usage of both hand-held and hands-free mobile phones varies across regions, which implies that the problem has affected almost the whole country.
Hand-held and hands-free phones are two types of cellular telephones that differ by the level of required manual interaction. Drews and Strayer define the first ones as the gadgets, which have a microphone, speaker, as well as a numerical keypad for dialing phone numbers. In all cases, a user should hold a phone receiver during conversations. In contrast, hands-free mobile phones do not require users to hold receivers near the ear. Such devices are usually promoted by cell phone corporations as they assume that drivers’ distractions result from manual interactions with their phones while the “elimination of this interaction leads to the safe use of mobile communication devices while driving”. However, the assumption is not correct. Instead of requiring the driver to hold the receiver near the ear such phones cause a high level of visual distraction. It is a feature that turns such gadgets into dangerous ones.
Characteristics that Make Talking and Texting Monstrous
The use of phones on the roads is dangerous as it may lead to fatal outcomes. In cases of talking, these devices may significantly increase a risk of accidents. Meanwhile, in the case of dialing a phone number, the rate of such events might rise by over 5.9 times while text messaging may increase a probability of crash or near crash events by 23 times. The level is high because the application of phones while driving creates three types of distractions, including the visual one. This one refers to taking eyes off the road, manual distraction linked to taking one’s hands off the wheel, as well as cognitive diverting of attention referring to changing one’s mind from the task of driving to calling. All of them are hazardous. However, when they occur simultaneously, the risk of a crash significantly increases.
Talking with passengers may divert a driver, but talking on phone is much worse. The difference is that drivers and passengers look at the same road conditions and can stop their interaction accordingly. Meanwhile, the individuals talking on phone cannot do it. Persons driving in the same car can even warn drivers about impending hazards and bad roads while people talking to drivers by phone will continue their distracting talk without any regard to driving conditions. The phone calls may misbalance the rhythms of the road and conversations. It, in many cases, results in a cognitive overload and fatal accidents. The evidence shows that texting and talking while driving might affect human psychology and cognition. The fact instills fear to society that begins to consider drivers who talk or text via phones as dangerous ones.
There are a number of characteristics that make the usage of phones while driving monstrous. Split attention also known as inattentional blindness is dangerous to both drivers and passengers. It refers to looking at an object but not seeing it. Individuals who view the particular place or try to concentrate on the certain task may “miss shockingly obvious things”. When an individual is distracted by other external elements, he or she is likely to pay attention the unexpected things. As a result, drivers should always be ready for seeing sudden events while talking or texting can prevent them from coping with this objective. Another monstrous aspect of using phones on the road is that such process demands a high level of cognitive interaction. When people communicate on phones, they cannot see an individual with whom they are talking. Therefore, they try to create the images of his or her personality. Seppa claims that such operations occupy “more available brain power than passively listening to a radio” that does not presuppose any cognitive interaction. As a result, holding a remote conversation and driving a car requires a person to multitask or perform two different tasks at once. However, most people do not multitask but toggle back and forth among various processes. It means that when interactions become more complicated, the rate of cognitive demand devoted to them enhances. Therefore, the less brainpower focuses on driving.
The third characteristic that frightens society is risky driving mostly caused by texting. While all distractions impair the drivers’ attention to some degree, texting in a car causes manual, visual, as well as cognitive distractions at once. The process of typing a message presupposes drawing eyes away from the road for a much longer period than checking radio and even calling a phone number. Messaging on the road delays the reaction time. As a result, it leads to risky driving that instills fear in the US population. Other features that make phones being real monsters on the road include impaired gap judgment, poor driving performance, a low level of sensitivity to road conditions, an increased heart rate, as well as the reduction of headway. Such distractions affect the driver’s cognitions and split his attention by making his less attentive to road conditions. These aspects have s significant influence on the American community by leading to fatal and near-fatal vehicle accidents.
Impact on Society
The drivers’ inattention caused by the use of mobile communication devices in a car serves as a significant contributing factor for the number of motor vehicle crashes. A large part of American drivers routinely hold remote interactions while driving, despite the fact that numerous research show that it is a dangerous habit. Instead of putting their phones aside, people continue talking while driving. As a result, driver distractions may cause the occurrence of those accidents where the drivers’ inattention is involved. The primary problem is that calling and texting divert individuals and split their attention. In 2012, each day, up to fifteen Americans were killed and over 1,200 were injured in car crashes, which involved distracted drivers. Despite the fact that the percentage of vehicular fatalities declines, the number of road deaths caused by distracted driving has significantly. For example, in 2013, more than 1.1 million crashes resulted from the phone usage while over 3,000 deaths and over 400,000 injuries were triggered by distracted driving the same year. The evidence shows that talking and texting via phones in a car may lead to fatal cases by taking lives of innocent people. As the problem becomes more and more complicated each year, the US government should adopt more effective policies aimed at solving the matter.
Possible Solution and Recommendations
The American government, as well as local authorities of each state, should develop and implement efficient programs for reducing the number of crashes caused by using phones while driving. It is not possible to reduce the percentage of people using cell phones and other wireless communication on the road driving without a legislative intervention. Although thirty-nine US states and the District of Columbia have developed the policies for restricting the use of mobile gadgets while driving, their enforcement has not brought any successful results. The major problem is that drivers react to such bans only when they are initially adopted. However, such people usually later return to the previous habit of using phones. The reduction of accidents is significant only during the first month following the enforcement of a ban. As drivers are not likely to follow these regulations, they should also use some programs aimed at coping with the issue.
Another way is to use the specially designed apps that promote the avoidance of talking and texting. In their article entitled “A Simple Solution for Distracted Driving,” Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris discuss the effectiveness of using the system of Driving Mode to cope with the matters that result from using these devices in a car. The system is useful and reliable as it helps to reduce the impact of such sources of distraction as phone calls, games, text messages, as well as social media. Driving Mode disables all communication except for navigation apps, GPS, and emergency notifications, and even automatically sends a customizable reply to all calls and texts until the driver arrives. The functions can help drivers to resist their temptation to answer the call and type a message. As a result, the new mode might provide a variety of benefits for drivers. However, people still should learn how to rely on themselves while learning how to cope with the issue.
Personal responsibility is an only way to solve the issue. Drivers should understand that when they are driving it is necessary to put cell phones aside. Driving is a demanding and potentially hazardous process, which does not involve the process of multitasking. In the modern society filled with busy, wired, and networked activities, the temptation to use phones while driving is strong. However, it is essential to remember that people had got along without any gadgets for decades. Therefore, Americans need to realize that major distractions that put the life of drivers and both passengers as well as pedestrians include taking and making calls, texting, emailing, inputting details into applications, and repeatedly glancing at the screen of the phone. It is recommended to think about how people lives without phones in previous centuries and instead of talking while driving, people should rather stop and walk. Thus, personal responsibility serves as an ultimate solution to the dangers posed by distracted driving.
Taking into consideration the findings of the study, one may conclude as follows. The usage of mobile communication systems while driving instills the American society as it might lead to fatal or near-fatal accidents involving both drivers and passengers. Using these cell devices for calling and texting messages on the road creates visual, manual, and cognitive distractions that split the attention of a driver, requires multitasking, as well as affects the driving performance. As a result, individuals should follow enforcements developed by the government, use specially designed systems, and rely on personal responsibility while managing this problem.