At any given moment, thousands of Americans are distracted behind the wheel because of their phones. Whether these drivers are looking up information, texting, talking, or fiddling with a music app, their behavior endangers others on the road around them. We have embraced technology as part of our daily lives, but technology undermines highway safety when it distracts drivers.
According to the National Safety Council, about 25 percent of all car accidents involve drivers who are texting or talking on their phones. And there is no clear indication that the problem is going to go away any time soon.
Most Americans understand the dangers of distracted driving, yet many are still drawn to use their phones while driving. Texting while driving increases the odds of a dangerous crash by 23 times, but the temptation of using electronic devices is simply too great for many drivers to ignore.
Car makers and the technology industry are working together to provide even more connectivity for drivers. They say the devices they are developing will be built into vehicles and be safer than smartphones for drivers to use. Nonetheless, we should ask ourselves whether such in-car systems also have the potential to create distractions. No driver needs to post a Facebook status or check email while at the wheel, regardless of whether the technology involved is hands-free or hand-held.
On the other hand, some technology can reduce distractions by stopping or eliminating the use of smartphones and similar devices by drivers when a car is in motion.
Distracted drivers are nothing new, but the level of distraction has risen with the popularity of mobile devices. Distracted-driving crashes killed an estimated 3,328 people and injured 421,000 in 2012.
Until technology offers a foolproof solution to distracted driving, it is important for individual drivers to practice safety and behave responsibly behind the wheel. Those who do not should be held responsible for the injuries and damages they cause.