The ABC “20/20” report opened with a trio of startling clips: a screaming young woman’s car is “t-boned” in a parking lot; a terrified new driver plunges into a snowbank; a trucker veers across four lanes before rolling over.
The common denominator: all three were using cell phones before their crashes.
The images were captured by “drive cams,” which allow parents and bosses to review footage of incidents such as these.
The “20/20” segment was reported by Chris Cuomo, who admitted he occasionally texted while driving — “I am one of you.”
The ABC piece (video at bottom of page) rounded up three of the often-seen sources in the battle against distracted driving. They agreed that “a cultural revolution” was needed to stop the deadly practices of text messaging and talking on cell phones while driving.
FocusDriven co-founder Jennifer Smith told Cuomo, “We’ve just got to make this not cool.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “This is hard because we’re trying to change dangerous behavior. But it’s not any harder than getting drunk drivers off the roads, which took 20 years, and it’s not any harder than getting 85% of the people to buckle up, it took 20 years. This is hard work.”
University of Utah researcher David Strayer joined Smith in saying that allowing hands-free operation of cell phones was no solution: “The brain still overloads,” Strayer’s research shows. Smith said her goal is “A total ban on all cell phone use while driving.”
Other witnesses on the show were a young woman left in a wheelchair as a result of her texting, and a Consumer Reports researcher who pointed to the ridiculously small navigation graphics on Ford’s InSynch dashboard system.
The segment also brought a couple of cocky texters & talkers to a test driving facility, where they proceeded to demonstrate just how bad their driving was while distracted. The ABC reporter ran right through some pop-up road markers that represented a kid running into the road.
A guy who leads a group of driving-and texting fans on Facebook was impressed, somewhat: “I’m probably going to cut back.”
Strayer said his studies of on-the-road “inattention blindness” indicated that only 2% of drivers safely can make cell phone calls while behind the wheel.
No one has been able to text and drive safely, he reported.
FocusDriven’s Smith, who lost her mother to a cell-phoning teen, had the last word: “This isn’t about civil liberties and personal freedom. I can’t remember ever learning anything about the freedom in this country was to talk on the phone while you drive. And put people’s lives in jeopardy.”