Leave the phone alone

Trent Ernst, Editor


Don’t touch that phone.

At least, not while you’re driving. That’s the message coming from the Tumbler Ridge RCMP this holiday season.

The reason why? Well, let’s forgo the fact that it is illegal to drive and text. Not just in BC, but in most places in Canada. Over 90% of Canada’s licensed drivers are subject to distracted driving legislation in their home province or territory, or that most states also prohibit text messaging while driving.

Instead, let’s focus on the fact that drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to cause injury.

New research shows that, even when drivers use a hands-free phone, they are less aware of the traffic around them. They tend to react more slowly to a critical event or worse — they may not detect the danger at all.

Driving while texting is potentially as dangerous as driving drunk, but is a lot more common. As of 2011, the number of accidents involving the use of cell phones had risen to 23 percent, or over 1.3 million accidents, making texting up to six times more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk. Still, up to 60 percent of drivers use their phones while driving, either to talk on, or to text.

Most people take their attention off the road for at least five seconds while texting and driving. But most accidents happen in three seconds or less of inattention.  Accidents are 23 times more likely to happen while texting compared to having your attention on the road.

A recent infographic from insurance agency AIG on the dangers of texting and driving shows that the reaction time of a sober person driving at highway speeds between a danger being presented and them hitting the brakes is less than 50 feet. Someone who has been drinking reacts between 50 and 100 feet.

People who are texting react between 100 and 150 feet, while people who were reading a text travelled more than 200 feet before reacting.

But texting is addicting. So what can you do about it?

The best solution is to put your phone in a place you can’t reach it. If you are travelling with other people, give your phone to your passenger; they can read your texts to you out loud.

If you don’t have someone in the car with you, there are a number of applications that you can download that will not allow the phone to ring or buzz. If you get a text while driving, some apps will automatically send a response saying that you are busy at the moment and will respond when you are free.

Or, you can wear a thumb band. That’s the key to the RCMP’s Leave The Phone Alone campaign. You can take the pledge online, in person at the RCMP office here in town or here at the Tumbler Ridge News office.

Once you’ve taken the pledge, you are given a thumb band to wear on your texting thumb, which is a visual reminder that texting is dangerous (the band reads “Texting Kills”). When you go to reach for your phone, you will see the band, and (hopefully) leave the phone alone.

And hopefully, the more you become conditioned to leaving the phone alone, the more you will leave the phone alone.