Distracted driving: Dangerous for others but okay for you?

To varying degrees, nearly all humans suffer from a self-serving bias. As just one common example, many people believe that they are the exception to the rule when it comes to distracted driving. “It may be dangerous for others,” they say, “but I’m good enough at multitasking to text and drive safely.”

Does that reasoning sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. The results of a State Farm Insurance survey released in November reveal that close to 75 percent of respondents are very supportive of bans on texting while driving. And more than half of those who took the survey believed that drivers who cause a fatal distracted driving accident should face imprisonment. Yet among survey respondents, 35 percent have admitted to personally texting while driving and 57 percent said they have talked on a handheld cellphone behind the wheel.

Based on these results, it seems pretty clear that many motorists tolerate or approve of behaviors in themselves that they do not condone in other people.

Distracted driving is not just a problem among teenagers. Teen drivers may be more likely to text behind the wheel, but they are certainly not the only offenders. Adults may be more likely to read emails or dial outgoing phone calls from the driver’s seat, and these behaviors are no less dangerous than texting.

Additionally, it is important to note that using hands-free technology is often as distracting (and sometimes more distracting) than operating equipment with one’s hands. Therefore, this is not an effective loophole for safe multitasking behind the wheel.

Like the campaigns to improve seat belt use and decrease drunk driving, eliminating distracted driving will take time and effort. More importantly, it will require a personal safety committment from every single one of us, each time we take to the road.

Source: NBC News, “Distracted driving: Safety advocates call for culture shift as more US drivers admit to deadly habit,” Daniella Silva, Nov. 27, 2013