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How Dangerous is Talking & Texting While Driving?

  • Drive Safe-Tips/Guides-Safety

On 17 January 2023, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula released the latest festive season road traffic statistics for the period between 1 December 2022 and 11 January this year. During this period 1,451 people lost their lives on South African roads, a reduction by almost 14% compared to the previous year for the same period. Shockingly, 40% of those deaths were pedestrians.

There are still so many people talking or texting on their cell phones while driving, which makes us wonder: are they not aware of the risks and that it is illegal? Even hands-free phones are riskier than we may think.

According to this article by Forbes, texting and driving is one of the riskiest behaviors drivers can engage in. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that even just a few, five distracted seconds at a speed of 88 kph is the same as driving an entire length of a football field with your eyes shut.

It’s common sense. Anything that distracts a person’s attention away from the road is bound to impair their driving ability making the situation highly dangerous. Road safety stats should be enough to stop any irresponsible behaviour of motorists. The figures show the increased likelihood of causing an accident.

So the danger here is not so much the mobile device but the distraction it presents. According to the NHTSA, distracted driving has become a leading cause of vehicle crashes in the U.S. mostly due to texting while driving.

Yet, it seems motorists around the world just cannot leave it alone. The following are some random statistics:

  • Nearly half of drivers in the UK use their mobile phones while driving.
  • 35% of motorists who admitted to using their phones while driving say they do so because it allows them to talk longer.
  • 61% of drivers say they answer their phones when driving because they don't want to seem rude.
  • And the biggest smartphone distractions for drivers? Social media.

So what makes cell phones so distracting?

Distracted driving types

Distractions fall into four main categories, visual, manual, auditory, and cognitive. In driving, this entails:

  1. Visual – This distraction causes you to take your eyes off the road. Turning to talk to a passenger in the front seat, trying to tend to a child in the back seat, answering an incoming call, texting.
  2. Manual: This distraction causes you to move your hand or hands away from the wheel. Eating, drinking, fumbling, rummaging, answering an incoming call, texting.
  3. Cognitive: This distraction happens when your mind wanders away from focused driving. Fatigue, daydreaming, reading a billboard, answering an incoming call, texting.
  4. Auditory: Distracting sounds that cause your attention to shift. Chatting to passengers, loud distracting music, crying baby, cell phone ringing.

Statistics show that a significant percentage of accidents occur when the driver is distracted, which includes texting and driving. From the above, it’s no wonder, because cell phone distraction takes up all four categories.

According to 2020 NHTSA data, cell phone use or texting while driving was a factor in 13% of the distracted driving accidents that resulted in fatalities. In 2020, 396 people in the U.S. were killed as a direct result of accidents caused by texting and driving.

Most distracted age groups

NHTSA data also shows that age matters. Talking and texting while driving seem to be the domain of the millennials. Figures of fatal crashes and the percentage of drivers using cell phones by age group indicate the following:

  • 25 to 34 year olds drivers far exceed the usage of older adults at 23%
  • 35 to 44 year olds are marginally lower in their usage at 20%
  • 15-24 year olds hover around 17%
  • 45+ year olds show a marked decrease at 12%

Using a cell phone while driving is hardly worth the risk. Driving is already dangerous enough without adding in extra distractions from your cell phone.

What you can do

You may reason that your business depends on it and you need to be contactable every minute of the day. By whose rules? Cell phone addiction is common and if you’re struggling to let go, you’re not alone.

While it may be hard in the beginning, try changing your cell phone habit whenever you get behind the wheel. Unless you’re expecting any emergency calls or expect to be in an emergency, leave the phone out of reach, in the boot if you have to! Or simply put it in your bag in the back and switch it to mute. It takes practice but you’ll soon get the hang of it and even come to enjoy the new found freedom!

Supa Quick are committed to safety on the road. Visit your nearest Supa Quick branch and get a free Vehicle Safety Check.

Also read:

Are your driving habits making you a risk on the road

Common causes of accidents in young drivers

Most road accidents can be prevented – fact or fallacy?

Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.


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