Our society’s new ‘drunk driving’ threat is talking or texting behind the wheel. I’m guilty of it, particularly when I’m stuck in traffic. But as of this Friday, Maryland’s hands-free law goes into effect, so my bad habit will have to end.
An analysis of road fatalities from “distracted driving” was just published in the American Journal of Public health this week. Approximately 16,000 deaths between 2001 and 2007 are attributed to texting while driving. The sharpest incline was between 2005 and 2008 when it went up 28 per cent. According to AOL News, these accidents increasingly involved males driving alone, crashing into roadside objects in urban areas, etc.
Oprah started a campaign a while back called the “No Phone Zone,” after interviewing people whose loved ones died as a result of talking or texting in the car. She challenges people to take “the pledge” to not use a cell phone or portable tech device while driving.
At first, the campaign seemed a little silly to me, but I now think it’s the right approach. Enforcing driving laws against cell phones is difficult to do. What turned the problem of drunk driving around was an entire generation raised on the message that it’s uncool to drive while intoxicated. In this case, public campaigns reinforced by advertisers and peer groups makes a difference. Hefty fines and jail time helps, but shame is often the better teacher.