Texting While Driving
Take out your cell phone and look at the last text you sent. Would that text be worth dying for? Definitely not.
Sending or looking at the text to post or email from behind the wheels can be deadly. In fact, studies have shown that those who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash.
One day I just finished my work at Gurgaon medical office. It was around 9 o’clock and I was going home. My driver was driving, and I was sitting in the car, almost got home. I lived close to Galleria Market, but I was travelling in this traffic obviously. I saw a girl driving a scooter right next to me. I am always fascinated by the girls driving a scooter because it was never a tradition when we grew up in Delhi. In any case, low and behold, she was driving right next to my car. With one hand, she reached her jeans pocket and pulled out a phone. Suddenly, she put phone to her ear, and she started talking.
So, she was driving the scooter with one hand and talking and chatting at the same time. Then she took off her phone from her ears and looked at the phone and tired to text with the fingers at the same time while she was driving too. I was shocked, I almost closed my eyes. This is a very high-risk behavior.
This was dated November 27, 2012. There was a major study done by the Toyota Motors which shows a significant correlation with parent and teen behaviors behind the wheel, suggesting parents can play a crucial role in modeling risky behavior on the road for their teen drivers. The driver education begins the day a child starts turned around to face front. As the study shows, the actions parents take and by extension of their expectation they set for young drivers each day, are powerful factors in encouraging safe behaviors behind the wheel.
Seat belts and good defensive driving skills are critical and the best advice we can give to any parent is to be a very good role model driver if they want their children to be safe drivers on the road. This is especially in relation to the cell phone use while driving. It is a major issue everywhere in the world and US is especially very, very risky as the driving is very fast and here the children start driving at a young age. They get license at the age of 16 and start driving and nationally in United States it remains the leading cause of death for the US teens between age 16 and 19. Basically bottom line is, while studies have proved that there is a strong correlation with driving behaviors and attitudes within the families.
What parents do; the children would do the same!
I have two children. I personally taught them for six months (despite having a nightmare of my lifetime), how to drive and my biggest challenge was not to use cell phone while I was driving or while they were driving. I immediately followed a practice for myself that every time I wanted to answer a mobile phone, I always pull the car at the roadside. I was lucky in India because I did not have to drive, and I always had a driver. So, it was not an issue there.
When I came back to US few months back, suddenly I realized this is impossible to stay away from the mobile phone. So, I did only one thing I could do, and my children were here too from the college for the summer. So, to prove my point to my children who are young teenage drivers, I just hired a driver in US, because at times when I am driving myself I will obviously pull my car each and every time on the road side and stop my car and then answer my cell phone.
At present my both the children are in college. So, couple of times I was talking to my children over the phone, and they questioned me, “Dad, how come you are driving in your car and texting us? You keep telling us always not to text and drive.” My answer was very simple, “Dear son or daughter, I am not driving. My driver is driving, and I am sitting in the backseat. So, I can text now, and I can be safe too.
Most important fact is what our children think about us. It does not matter what we actually do, more important thing that we are looking for something in the vehicle while driving then, our children are four times more likely to also look for the same thing while driving. If our children think we eat and drink while driving, then they are four times more likely to do the same thing.
Key findings of a study:
1. Almost 25% teenager responds to a text message once or more every time they drive.
2. Nearly, one in three teenagers read a text or email once or more time they drive.
3. What is even more alarming is that one in every five teens admits that they have extended multi-message text conservations while driving.
4. More than 50% of the teenagers said that they search for music on portable music player such as i-pod while driving.
5. Almost 70% teenagers drive with two or other teenagers in the car (with no adults in the car) which actually the ‘American Automobile Association Foundation’ study says that doubles the risk of being killed in a crash.
Our children’s brains are not fully developed till they are 25 and like in texting and driving, there is a reward thing by the brain, and it is very hard for our children to resist and they inhibit the bad behavior. It is a very difficult situation. If we take teenager’s cell phone away, their self-esteem goes down. They get depressed and they do not feel like that they belong to a well to do family.
While texting and driving or distraction, the issue is that there is enormous danger because reaction time is being cut down as a result of the distraction. All the studies have proved it. We feel that we can see everything, but we cannot. Only Sherlock Holmes could see everything in the room at the same time as he walks into the room. But, in reality all the studies have proved that we can really keep track of only four objects in our environment at one time and for most of the parts we are literally blind to what is going on around us.
According to the studies, our brain processes only a fraction of what we think it processes. This data applies to United States where more people under 25 die in vehicles than the next three causes of the death combined.
We do not think about it like that. We think it is relatively safe. We fool ourselves into thinking that we can do more than what actually we can. So, it does not make sense that someone would take his/her vehicle off the road or put a Bluetooth headset in and think he/she could talk for 20 minutes and it would not distract him/her. In fact, it really does because they do not have the experience that they are missing anything. What has happened in United States and other countries that awareness has been raised but has not been done is the enforcement of the law.
So, while I was staying in Gurgaon, I was going one time with Rahul and the other time with Ankit. They were driving and talking on their cell phone as they approached the HUDA City Center Chowk. They immediately put down the phone and I asked, “what happened?”
They both said the same thing, “Sir there is a policeman ahead and if he see us talking on the phone, he will fine us, and we will have to pay Rs. 100 to him”. Then, I asked him how much is the fine. They said the fine is Rs. 200. It was a kind of crazy reason. They were putting down the phone not because of the law or not because of the personal risk but because they will have to pay Rs. 100 to the policeman.
In any case, I just wanted to say that I had made a very strict rule that in my presence when I am in the car, no driver will ever be on his cell phone. My biggest fight was with my brother. He is a physician and he keeps getting calls from the hospital and he keeps answering them. Every 2 minutes he was answering the phone calls and I was getting very nervous and I had a fight with him.
I said, “Dear brother, your children are much older, but my children are still in high school and have not joined college yet”. I was angry with him, but my position was clear that next time I will not sit in the car if anyone drives and at the same time I will not sit in the car if anyone drives and at the same time talk over the phone. This applies to my nephew too.
I mean when I was in India, I saw almost everybody who is either a friend or family, talking on the phone while driving and I had to pick up a fight with everyone. As much as I was concerned about their safety, I was concerned about my safety too as I was a passenger in the car.
There are laws in 41 states out of 50 in USA against texting while driving and pretty much every state is moving towards banning texting while driving. My understanding is that in the state of California you cannot even use cell phone for GPS purpose.