By: Jenny Ingles
On a motorcycle ride last summer, I sat on the back of the bike and counted the number of people texting and driving. In my completely unofficial, unscientific experiment, I determined that my husband and I were probably going to die. Over half the cars we passed swerved around as the drivers fumbled with their phones. Freeway texting seemed a lot more prevalent than city-driving texting, and most drivers were in the 20 to 50 age range. Both men and women were doing it. While my little experience is not backed by science, research does seem to support an epidemic in our nation.
In 2013, 3 million people died from distracted driving. According to the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, in 2013, over 30% of teens said that they had sent a text message or email within the past 30 days of being surveyed (an increase of over 10% from the 2011 survey). It takes approximately 5 seconds to read or place a text. If you’re driving at 65MPH, then that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blindfolded. In an effort to bring attention to, and reduce, these behaviors, national campaigns show horrible images of people who have been maimed or killed. Unfortunately, it appears that, despite these campaigns and statistics, distracted driving is on the rise.
The question then begs, is there anything that can be done to change driving and texting behaviors? While research is still ongoing, it does appear that some things are helping. Graduated Licensing Programs in all 50 states seem to be helping by reducing the number of teen crash deaths. A lot of research on teens seems to be underway, but what about the 30, 40 and 50 somethings that drive the roadways, phone in hand, swerving back and forth?
Based on the research, or lack-thereof, the short answer appears to be, “no”. However, my personal experience (because that’s all I have at this point) is different. Decision-based driving programs, like the one at Advanced Behavioral Rehabilitation, that forego scare tactics and target behavior modification make a difference. I see it every day. Walking an individual through their thinking errors and teaching them how to make appropriate choices does change behaviors. But these classes are developed for people who are already in the court system.
Most people don’t wake up in the morning and think, “I text and drive a lot. I have a problem. I need to seek a behavioral modification course.” In my opinion, there needs to be a national campaign that merges scare tactics with evidence-based behavior modification. What that looks like, I’m not sure yet. In the meantime, as individuals we can stop texting and driving. We can talk to those we love about not texting and driving.
We can spread information via Social Media. Right now, I think the behavior modification part of it is grassroots, and we can hope that more research will beget better campaigns that include behavior modification.