By SARAH THOMACK
St. Joseph Post
Driving over a hundred yards down the road with your eyes closed may not be an activity you’d want to try, but, according to studies, that’s the area drivers can cover when they take their eyes off the road to look at a text message.
“When you look at a text message, it can take anywhere from five to seven seconds to look at that text message, and if you’re traveling around 55 miles per hour, you could travel the length of a football field just by looking at your phone,” said Emily Sweet, Buchanan County EMS paramedic. “People don’t realize, they think they’re just looking away for a second, but really if they’re traveling at a high rate of speed or any speed at all, they are not paying attention to the roadway.”
Sweet says phones seem to have become more of a contributing factor to crashes as there are more and more ways available to be easily connected.
“I think the main thing that makes phones so much more of a contributing factor now is that people are using more apps. So apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, they all use qualities to get your attention, and the more people use those apps, the more they want to use their phone, the more they are distracted by their phone,” Sweet says.
According to the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, distracted driving is a major cause of crashes throughout the U.S. Drivers using cellphones in Missouri were involved in 2,580 crashes in 2017 alone.
Sgt. Jake Angle is the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop H Public Information and Education Officer. Angle says the hands-free option in some vehicles is great, but drivers are still distracted.
"Anytime you're doing two things at the same time, something suffers and what we see is, when people are driving down the road, what suffers is their driving," Angle says. "Is it better? Sure. But are you still distracted? Yeah, to a certain degree, you still are. Hands-free is a better option, but I don't think it's the complete answer either."
Angle recommends setting up the “Do not disturb” option on your smartphone to send an automatic reply letting others know you’re driving.
“That feature is awesome, because people don’t hear the phone buzz, they don’t hear it ring, they don’t hear it do any of that stuff and they’re not tempted to look at it,” Angle says. “They get to their destination, then they can… take a look at what’s going on, what happened while they were driving and take care of it then, obviously a much safer option.”
The Buckle Up Phone Down Challenge this month is an effort to get people thinking about safety for themselves and everyone in their vehicles. Sweet says safety can start with one person doing one thing.
“It takes just one small thing that each of us can change on the roadway to keep it safer and if that means just putting your phone down and waiting until you get to your destination to send someone a text, that is very important,” Sweet says. “I think that right now the mindset of people is that, ‘It can’t happen to me.’ That’s what they think of on the roadway, when in reality, their mindset should be, ‘That text message isn’t worth my life.’”
For more on the Buckle Up Phone Down Challenge, go to modot.org/BuckleUpPhoneDown.