Everyone is busy. We all have so many demands made on our time, each one pulling us in a different direction. It seems the only solution is to multitask, which includes texting while driving to our various appointments.
By now, we all know that the practice of texting while driving isn’t the type of multitasking that we should be doing. After all, it’s distracting and dangerous. But if we need to send an important text that just can’t seem to wait, is it okay to text hands-free or while sitting at a red light?
Here is some enlightening information about your texting options, along with the best ways to protect yourself and your family from other drivers who text.
What About Hands-Free Texting?
Generally, the number of seconds a driver can safely glance away from the road is two seconds. However, when sending a text message, you will take your eyes off the road for about five seconds. To put that into perspective, when your car is going 55 mph, you will drive the length of a football field without seeing what is happening in front of you.
To solve this problem, many folks are turning to hands-free texting technology such as Apple’s Siri, Google Now, or their automobile’s in-dash controls. In theory, these technological advancements should limit your distraction time, but do they?
Researchers at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety rated a variety of mental distractions while operating a moving vehicle. On a five-point scale with a Category One representing a mild level of distraction and a Category Five representing the maximum, it was found that even when these hands-free texting controls performed their error-free best, they still rated at a Category Three...deeming them a moderate distraction.
The conclusion? Hands-free does not equal risk-free.
Can I Text While Stopped at a Red Light?
Okay, so what about texting while stopped in a traffic jam or at a red light? Is that a safe option for busy drivers?
In Canada, one-third of drivers admit to texting in the last month while sitting at a stop light, despite the evidence that one can be distracted and not focused on driving for up to 27 seconds after the send button is pushed. This doesn’t even consider the safety risk involved in not paying enough attention to all of the surroundings, drivers, or pedestrians surrounding you.
For example, say you are the first driver stopped at a red light. Your eyes are on your texts and out of your peripheral vision, you notice the car next to you proceeding forward. Instinctively, you look up and hit the gas pedal without assessing the situation first. Turns out, the moving car next to you was legally turning on a green arrow and your light was still red. Now you find yourself in the middle of the intersection with cars turning right into you from the opposite direction.
Another example involves you proceeding forward without noticing the jaywalking teenager who seems to come out of nowhere. This is a bad situation for both of you! So before you think you’re good to text while stopped, stop and think about it a little more.
Which Alternatives Are Safer?
Many new phones have a built-in application that sends an automated message reply while you are driving. That way, if your child sends you a message asking you a question, your phone will automatically reply that you are driving and you will respond once you are parked. Some of these applications activate when your car is started and others must be manually turned on.
Another option, though lower tech, is very effective and free. If you must text someone while driving, simply pass your phone to a passenger and dictate a response for them to send for you. If you are driving alone, use your voice-activated phone to call someone on speaker as this has been proven to be is less distracting than sending a voice text.
How Can I Protect Myself From Other Drivers Who Text?
Even if you never text while operating a moving vehicle, you don’t have control over whether others do. Here are three ways to help protect yourself against texting drivers.
California has several cell phone laws put into place to protect innocent people from getting hurt at the hands of a texting driver. Check your state’s cell phone laws and if you are not satisfied with them, contact your local representative and work together to get tougher laws and/or consequences passed.
Simply reminding those you know about both the dangers and the laws can go a surprisingly long way in discouraging unsafe driving practices.
Having adequate auto insurance won’t protect you from getting hurt, but it will help to protect you financially should a distracted driver cause an accident. Not only will the proper coverage pay for any vehicle damage, but for your expensive medical bills as well.