I’ll admit upfront that I’m probably the most rabid anti-texting-while-driving guy that you’ll ever meet. I’m convinced that it impairs drivers as much as having a BAC over the legal limit, yet it poses more of a risk. From day one we’re taught that drinking and driving is bad, but we’re simply told that we shouldn’t text and drive (or chat on the cell phone and drive), usually by parents who are texting or talking while driving. There’s a double standard here: both behaviors are equally risky, but one is tolerated. You wouldn’t give a new driver a fifth of Jack Daniels before he got behind the wheel, yet how many parents actually check or enforce a no-texting-while-driving rule?
That said, AAA’s intentions with this video, found on Autoblog, are in the right place. Their execution, however, is way off base. I’ve got experience with driver training, and the one universal constant is this: the vast majority of drivers have absolutely no idea how wide their car or truck is. The school I taught at used to run braking exercises to teach threshold braking. When I set up cones eight feet apart, most drivers could enter the braking area at 60 miles per hour without spraying cones all over the rattlesnake-infested infield (good times picking them up). When I narrowed that chute to six feet wide, at least half of the drivers would spray cones nearly to Kansas. Even at 35 miles per hour, a surprising number of drivers couldn’t tell where to position their cars, and the result was usually conemageddon.
There’s no data on the course setup that AAA used, but those gates look awfully narrow, and those turns look ludicrously tight. Since there was no control footage, I have to assume that AAA didn’t run the tests with the same drivers at full attention, sans cell phones. I suspect if they did, all three would have failed the course without the distraction of a cell phone. Of course they all failed with the cell phone in hand, but that was the expected result. If this video isn’t credible to me, how do you think it’s going to look to the average 17 year old new driver? Do you think they’ll take it seriously, and do you think it’ll keep one person from texting and driving? Sadly, I suspect the answer is no.