Did you know that the average person spends a whopping four hours just on their cell phones every day? In fact, when you consider total screen time across all devices (televisions, laptops, phones, and tablets), that number climbs to a staggering eleven hours. This sounds like an addiction, doesn't it?
It's no surprise that we're hooked to our smartphones. We use our thumbs for everything from ordering food to calling a friend overseas to firing off an important email.
While technology undoubtedly offers many positive benefits, the distraction element has created a serious dilemma: experts are now comparing phone addiction to drunk driving. In other words, our smartphone reliance has transcended from mere entertainment to life-or-death situations.
The Phone and The Wheel
A quick text here. A quick scroll there. You're at a red light—what's the real damage? Unfortunately, it's painstakingly high.
A recent report from Zendrive reveals that 1 in 12 drivers on the road is a verifiable phone addict. Zendrive classified phone addicts as drivers who could not (or do not) put their phones away while driving.
These individuals pick up their phones 4 times more than the average driver, use it for 6 times longer, and have their eyes off the road for almost 30 percent of their total commute. Unfortunately, the number is rising, and Zendrive predicts that 1 in 5 drivers may meet the 'phone addict' criteria by 2022.
For now, it's harder to track distracted driving than drunk driving. Even though most states ban using handheld devices when behind the wheel, there is little to no repercussions for drivers breaking this law.
Drunk driving wasn't always stigmatized. It took almost a century for the United States to enact its national standard for BAC levels. Change takes time, but lives remain at stake before these changes happen.
Zendrive found that drivers use their phones for 88 out of 100 trips. On a large scale, that's over 600 million distracted driving trips happening every day.
However, it only takes a 2-second distraction to increase your chances of getting involved in a car accident. Using a phone doesn't just physically take your eyes off the road—it also affects your brain, which can naturally impair your driving abilities.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently reported that distracted driving caused 3,166 fatalities in 2017 alone. Due to people using their phones while driving, thousands of preventable deaths continue to occur each year.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Just like with drunk driving, it's probably going to take time for people to really recognize the serious consequences associated with distracted driving. That said, the change starts with you.
If you're guilty of using your phone while driving, stop. Encourage your friends and family to stop. Refuse to get in the car with someone you know engages in distracted driving.
While your defensive driving cannot counteract all reckless drivers on the road, change starts on an individual level. From there, it's important to keep making noise. Speak to your local government. Start petitions for change. Start the change we need.
Advocacy starts with individual effort.