Words of Wellness: Injury Prevention – The Ever-Present Dangers of Texting and Driving

19 Feb 2020 Kelly Wingo
Kelly Wingo is an Atlanta transplant, a soccer mom and a wife, and an academic advisor and instructor for the public health program at the University of Alabama. She lives in Tuscaloosa with her husband, Jonathan, her daughter, Maya, and a lovely golden retriever named Ellie Mae.  Kelly Wingo is an Atlanta transplant, a soccer mom and a wife, and an academic advisor and instructor for the public health program at the University of Alabama. She lives in Tuscaloosa with her husband, Jonathan, her daughter, Maya, and a lovely golden retriever named Ellie Mae.

You probably know that the top two leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease and cancer. The third leading cause of death, however, may surprise you:  unintentional injury. Falls, poisoning, and drowning are examples. But the leading cause of unintentional-injury death for Americans of all ages is motor vehicle crashes. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, the United States has the highest incidence of motor vehicle crash deaths when compared to all other high-income countries. 

We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our fellow Americans to carefully consider what we can do to “arrive alive” and ensure that others do as well. There are a few no-brainers: wear your seatbelt, don’t drink and drive, and stay within the speed limit. Compliance with these safety measures is easy.  So, let’s take a minute to focus on another safety measure that isn’t nearly as common and apparently much less easy: putting away the phone while you drive. 

Texting and driving (or even using your phone at all) is especially dangerous because it involves manual, visual, and cognitive distraction. According to the CDC, approximately 9 people are killed each day by a distracted driver. Moreover, an AT&T survey found that three-quarters of motorists admit to texting while driving despite awareness of the dangers of this behavior. 

Do you text and drive? Some people don’t think that their own personal driving performance is affected by texting. Others have a serious case of the FOMOs and are Fearful of Missing Out on something important. And some are just plain addicted and get anxious when they can’t respond right away and draw a sense of satisfaction from being able to read or respond to a text or a “like. 

What can be done?  The answer is to keep your phone out of sight and out of mind while youre driving. For those who find this too difficult, ask yourself four specific questions: 

  • Is texting and driving dangerous? 
  • Am I or others around me susceptible to the dangers of texting and driving? 
  • Why do I text and drive? What are the barriers to me putting the phone away while I drive? 
  • What benefits are there to putting the phone away while I drive? 

Most of us need a good reason to back our decisions. My daily decision to not text and drive doesn’t come lightly. I desire for our roadways to be safe enough to enjoy jogging, road biking, playing with kids, and dog walking. Also, when I drive, my 12-year-old daughter is often in the car with me; so, Im mindful of being an example to her of safe driving in the hopes that she will eventually be a safe driver, too. Thus, my challenge to you this month is to find a heart-felt reason for putting your phone away the second you get behind the wheel. 

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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