You’ve heard it before, don’t drive in-text-icated.  And it makes perfect sense, but then why are so many of us still breaking the ethical rule and safety law?

I think we need more example-setters and less exception-makers. Can you be an example setter?  Can you and I make a pact – right here and now – not to touch our phones at all while we’re in the car and it’s turned on?

Seriously, that’s a tough proposition.  But my son just turned one and he loves sitting on my lap and grabbing for my phone.  The few times I’ve let him have it I’ve watched very closely.  And you know what he does?  He puts his hands on it just like he sees my wife and I do… as if he’s taking care of business!

Now let’s take that example and apply it to texting and driving parents of soon-to-be-driving teens or really anyone… heck even the guy or gal driving next to you later today!  If more of us don’t do it than more of us will follow that lead.

Click play below and hear the sad statistics of driving in-text-icated.  And let’s all plan to not do it ever again.

***Transcript***

Recording date – July 11, 2018, in Los Angeles, CA

In-Text-icated Driving 

Doug Shupe: You still have 10,000 people a year who die on US roadways as a result of alcohol-impaired driving. But what we hope to do is increase that stigma with texting while driving,

Sadly here in the United States, about an average of nine people die as a result of distracted driving every single day, and more than 1000 people are injured every day.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California. Tom Smith here. And joining me is Doug Shupe from the Auto Club of Southern California.

All of us know it as AAA. And Doug is the Senior Public Affairs Specialist. And today, Doug is joining us for a talk about driving in-text-icated.

Doug Shupe: That’s right, Tom. Thanks for having me today.

“…be a good role model, you know, as a parent, if we want our young drivers to develop safe driving habits early on.”

Tom Smith: And don’t do it, by the way.

Doug Shupe: Don’t do it.

Tom Smith: Don’t drive in-text-icated.

Doug Shupe: You know, you don’t have to go very far here in Southern California on any freeway or any roadway, for that matter, to see people driving distracted by those mobile devices.

Tom Smith: Absolutely.

Doug Shupe: And you can tell. They’re slowing down. They’re going much slower than the speed limit as they’re concentrating on that phone. They’re weaving out of the lanes of traffic.

Tom Smith: Smartphones and even back to the BlackBerrys, right? They, I believe, have a definite impact on the already congested traffic that we have on the highways because people realize that, “Oh, it’s getting backed up, whatever. I’m just going to check my phone, and not get frustrated with the road.”

You See it Everywhere

Well, then, drivers like me see that. And it’s like, “Oh my gosh. There’s, you know, a half-mile gap in front of this person because they haven’t been paying attention that, you know, it’s time to speed up a little bit this particular space, and maybe get going again, right, and get out of the congestion.”

But no, they need to finish the message that they’re dealing with.

Doug Shupe: And, unfortunately, what’s happening is people are so accustomed to using those mobile devices when they’re stuck in traffic that they’re now starting to use them when they’re going at highway speed.

Tom Smith: Yeah, that’s scary.

Doug Shupe: And it’s dangerous. And so, the Auto Club launched a new initiative in April, at the start of April, which was National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Tom Smith: Yup, yup.

“…taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of being involved in a crash.”

Doug Shupe: This new initiative, the theme is “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive In-text-icated.”

And this is a traffic safety education campaign that was created to make distracted driving as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving.

So, these new public service announcements are airing on television as well as on radio. You may have seen them. They feature a person, a dad driving with kids in the vehicle.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Doug Shupe: It says, “You don’t do this,” which is him with a bottle of beer in his hand.

Tom Smith: Right.

Doug Shupe: “So, why do you do this?” And then it flips through him with a mobile device in his hand. And, really, this message is intended for people of all ages, but especially those older drivers who consider themselves safe, right?

Tom Smith: Right.

Don’t Drink & Drive – Don’t Text & Drive

Doug Shupe: They say, “I’d never get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.” Yet, they regularly will text while driving.

And we know the research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of being involved in a crash.

On average, it takes about five seconds to read or send a text message. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, that’s like going the entire length of a football field blindfolded.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

“…nine people die as a result of distracted driving every single day, and more than 1000 people are injured every day.”

Doug Shupe: I mean, who knows what you could encounter during that length of a football field. You know, a child running out to get a ball, a bicyclist, a jogger, another vehicle that comes to an abrupt stop.

And so, that’s why this campaign targets those drivers who would never consider drinking and driving; and yet, continually use those mobile devices. Texting while driving is that true triple threat because it’s manual, taking your hands off the steering wheel. It’s visual, taking your eyes off the road.

And it’s also cognitive, taking your mind and your focus off of the task of driving.

Tom Smith: Yeah. And that’s the best-case scenario if you’re dealing with a message that’s a happy one, as opposed to one that’s annoying or frustrating, right?

Doug Shupe: Yeah. And, you know, we actually put this initiative to the test. We put it to focus groups here in Southern California, as well as in Texas because we wanted to get people’s reaction to these public service announcements.

And we really got an overwhelming show of support, you know. It triggered a reaction of sadness when people saw these public service announcements, which would show what happens when someone makes that wrong decision to text while driving.

A Very Real Realization

But, also, we heard from the focus group participants, “I never thought of it that way, you know. I know that drinking and driving is bad, you know, but I never really kind of equated that the consequences are the same. You know, it could be deaths or injuries.”

And so, you know, the Auto Club recognizes the impact that more than 50 years of public education efforts against alcohol-impaired driving have had across the country. The number of alcohol-impaired deaths have been cut by half since the ’80s. Now, there’s still a lot more work to be done.

You know, you still have 10,000 people a year who die on US roadways as a result of alcohol-impaired driving. But what we hope to do is increase that stigma with texting while driving, similar to the stigma that exists with drinking and driving.

And we know that sadly here in the United States, about an average of nine people die as a result of distracted driving every single day, and more than 1000 people are injured every day. And so, if we can get this message out-

Tom Smith: Across the United States?

“…97% of drivers say that texting or emailing while driving is a serious or very serious threat to their safety.”

Doug Shupe: Across the United States.

Tom Smith: I would have guessed those numbers would be much bigger.

Doug Shupe: Well, that’s the big question is, it very well could be.

Tom Smith: Is it accurate? Is it accurate?

Doug Shupe: They very well could be.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Doug Shupe: And, most likely, the numbers are much higher.

Tom Smith: How many accidents are occurring? And people, actually, they know that “Oh my gosh. This happened because I had my phone in my hand.”

Doug Shupe: But they won’t admit it.

Tom Smith: But they’re immediately covering it up.

Our Behavior Needs to Change

Doug Shupe: Right.

Tom Smith: And, certainly, you know, probably to themselves too.

Doug Shupe: Right, you know. And that’s the thing is we know that these numbers are much higher. And so, if we can … And this is a trend that’s not going away.

It’s not like mobile devices are going away anytime soon. And, you know, young people, new beginning drivers, I mean, they’ve had these mobile devices well before they started driving.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Doug Shupe: I mean, and so, if we just have to continue to get this message out. And so, that’s why we started this initiative, “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.”

And research released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that even though 97% of drivers say that texting or emailing while driving is a serious or very serious threat to their safety.

“…the consequences of drinking and driving and the consequences of texting while driving could be the same…”

45% admitted to having read a text or e-mail while driving in the past month, and 35% admitted to having typed one. So, there’s very much a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mentality.

Tom Smith: Do you?

Doug Shupe: We both that it’s wrong.

Tom Smith: Do you?

Doug Shupe: Absolutely not. Before I worked at AAA, I was a news reporter.

Tom Smith: Right.

Doug Shupe: And I did. I did. I made that decision to get behind the wheel and text because you have the newsroom calling or texting you.

Tom Smith: Busy person.

Doug Shupe: It’s a very common thing. And so, you know, prior to joining the Auto Club about seven years ago, and reading this research, and then talking, this is what really I think is the most impactful when you talk to someone that lost a loved one as a result of a texting-while-driving crash.

Sobering Presentations & Statistics 

Doug Shupe: And I think that’s why we did this initiative because we want people to ask themselves that question. You know, what is so important in that mobile device that is worth my life, the life of my children in the back seat, or the life of somebody else in another vehicle, or a pedestrian, or bicyclist on the roadway?

And so, we’re encouraging people to understand, really watch the public service announcements that are on television. Watch them online. You can go to AAA.com/DontDriveDistracted.

Talk with young people. There are always going to be new drivers out there, and those young people are totally tied to their mobile devices, but just help them see the consequences.

“If you see your driver of the vehicle that you’re in texting, speak up and say something. It could save their life. It could save your life.”

You know, they’ve heard don’t get behind the wheel and drink alcohol. Just remind them that the consequences of drinking and driving and the consequences of texting while driving could be the same, deaths and injuries that are totally preventable.

And we encourage people, you know, put those mobile devices out of sight. If you’re tempted to use them, just put it in the back seat, so you’re not going to be able to pull it out. Know where you’re going. Use that navigation program app.

Tom Smith: Well, see. And that’s exactly what I’m getting to is I’ve touched my phone, and I felt guilty about it, but I’ve touched my Phone not to text, or email, or anything, but to push a button or two on the navigation.

Doug Shupe: You bring up a good point. When we say texting, what we’ve found in our focus group research was that when you say the word texting, people believe that it’s more than just actually texting the text message to someone else.

Be an Example-Setter

It has a broader definition. It could be programming navigation. It could be, you know, looking up music. It could be checking work email, updating social media, anything that has to do with, you know, using your fingers to do something on that mobile device is distracting.

Tom Smith: It takes your hands off, takes your eyes off, takes your mind off.

Doug Shupe: It’s in-text-icated driving. And so, you know, if you have to do it, pull over to a safe place and stop. Ask your passenger. If you’re riding with someone, ask them to do it for you.

Tom Smith: Sure.

Doug Shupe: Ask for some help. Be a good passenger. You know to speak up. If you see your driver of the vehicle that you’re in texting, speak up and say something. It could save their life. It could save your life. And then, also, you know, don’t be a distraction.

If we know that our loved ones are out there, and they’re on the way to the store, they’re coming home for dinner, you know, we don’t want to text them and say, “Hey, are you almost here?” because we know they’re behind the wheel.

“…don’t be a distraction!”

Tom Smith: Right.

Doug Shupe: And, finally, you know, everyone should prevent being in-text-icated. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists.

I’ve actually seen here in Southern California, you know, a lot of people that are in those crosswalks, and they are just glued to that mobile device while they’re walking.

Tom Smith: Absolutely.

Doug Shupe: And even bicyclists, I’ve seen that too.

Now I’ve Stepped In It!

Tom Smith: I was working my iPhone. Now, this was in an office building. I was on my way to go see my chiropractor. But I was working my phone in an office building where my chiropractor is.

I noticed that I stepped on something or something was on my foot just as I was entering an elevator. Someone’s dog had relieved themselves just before the elevator. And yes, it was solid.

Besides being grossed out, this was in an office building, and I’m on my phone in an office building. But yet, I would have totally avoided that had I not been working my phone.

Doug Shupe: Right.

Tom Smith: I wasn’t out on the sidewalk, I wasn’t crossing the road, but I stepped in dog stuff, literally.

Doug Shupe: Distracted-

“Someone’s dog had relieved themselves just before the elevator. And yes, it was solid.”

Tom Smith: Exactly.

Doug Shupe: … by a mobile device. And, you know, it’s messy. It could be messy like your situation.

Tom Smith: It was.

Doug Shupe: And then, more seriously, it could be deadly.

Tom Smith: I had expensive shoes on too.

Doug Shupe: Yeah. We just hope that people will continue to talk about this because it’s a message that we have to continue to get out there.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Doug Shupe: Law enforcement can only do so much. And, you know, we do have strict laws here in California. But it really takes all of us continuing to remind each other, especially those new drivers that are out there.

Tom Smith: Well, the new drivers, but then also those of us that need to set the example for the new drivers. And, you know, there lies… Another point is law enforcement.

Statistics are Likely Far Worse

You know, when you talk about drinking and driving, you know, someone gets in an accident, you know if they have alcohol on their breath or alcohol in their system.

Someone gets in an accident, you know, going back to those stats we were talking about the top of the podcast, someone gets in an accident, and they weren’t … It’s easy to say, “No, the phone had nothing to do with it.”

Doug Shupe: Right.

Tom Smith: Probably those stats are way, way, way, way worse.

Doug Shupe: They likely are much higher. And that’s a good point. When you said be a good role model, you know, as a parent, if we want our young drivers to develop safe driving habits early on.

“…really, this message is intended for people of all ages, but especially those older drivers who consider themselves safe…”

We shouldn’t be behind the wheel texting because our kids are definitely watching what we’re doing from a very early age. And if we’re doing it, they’re going to think that it’s okay. Mom and dad does it, or grandma, or grandpa, or aunt, or uncle does it.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Doug Shupe: So, it’s okay if I do it.

Tom Smith: Geez, and I think about the eyes that my mom and dad have, they can’t text. They couldn’t possibly do it. I haven’t driven them on a very long time, but no way. No way.

All right, Doug Shupe of the Auto Club of Southern California, Senior Public Affairs Specialist, thank you as always.

Doug Shupe: Thanks so much for taking the time.

Tom Smith: Most appreciated. And we’ll post that link that you mentioned earlier on iDriveSoCal.com on this post. For iDriveSoCal, I’m Tom Smith. Thank you for listening.