Drunk driving. Street racing. Texting and driving. What do these three things have in common? Aside from the fact that participants always believe they’re skilled enough to get by without having an accident or getting ticketed, they’re all behaviors that can get you (or someone else) killed. AT&T has really stepped up to the plate with this video, which shows the tragic results of four texting and driving accidents. The question is this: will the video, as well as efforts by the NHTSA, do any good? Sadly, I think the answer is no.
On a recent press trip, an engineer from a major automaker had to ask a journalist to stop texting while she was driving. The journalist’s retort? “Oh, don’t worry, I’m good at this.” Did I mention the journalist was also driving north of 90 miles per hour at the time? No one is that good, not even Lewis Hamilton, and therein lies the danger. Driving has become a very easy task, and modern automobiles have achieved a level of comfort and safety that was the stuff of science fiction 20 years ago. No wonder drivers over-estimate their skill behind the wheel: driving has become almost a secondary task. Until, that is, something goes wrong. What do you think the chances are that the journalist in question (who was from a technology website and had no formal high performance driver training) could have successfully executed a sudden lane change at 90 miles per hour, or recovered from a tire failure, or even stopped the car in the minimum amount of distance? I’m going with “slim to none” on all of the above. Ultimately, the journalist complied, but only after the engineer threatened to have her pulled from the event. Do you think the journalist learned anything from the experience? I don’t, which is why I don’t think the above video will have any effect. Until you know someone who was involved in a texting and driving accident, it just isn’t “real” to you.
Yes, there are people who can multitask better than others, just like there are drivers who can climb behind the wheel with a .10 BAC and drive as if nothing is wrong. Don’t think that you’re one of them, because chances are that you’re not. As two of the four drivers in the above video learned, sometimes getting killed behind the wheel isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you, so think about that the next time you reach for your cell phone behind the wheel. Whatever the message is, it can wait.