In 2010, 3,092 people died in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, while some 416,000 were injured in crashes involving driver distraction. Traveling at 55 mph, a driver covers some 300 yards, blind, in the 4.6 seconds it takes to send the average text.
Those numbers aren’t made up: in fact, they come from www.distraction.gov, and if anything may be on the conservative side. How many crashes, for example, occur as a result of distracted driving but aren’t documented as such? More often than not, drivers at fault in an accident will deny the (often illegal) use of a cell phone at the time of a crash.
Mazda has produced an interesting video on the subject, featuring both professional drivers and teens with little experience except for a day of hands-on training at the Skip Barber Racing School. You’d expect a professional driver like Elliott Skeer or Connor De Phillippi to be better at texting while driving than average, but you’d be wrong.
Despite reaction times and car control skills honed overs multiple seasons of competition, both Skeer and De Phillippi crashed behind the wheel of a simulator while attempting to text. It’s a pretty safe assumption that neither driver engaged in the practice, even before their off-course excursions at a virtual Laguna Seca.
Next up were three teen drivers, who were given a full day of instruction at Skip Barber’s Safety And Survival School. After eight hours of learning car control with expert instructors, the teens were turned loose on an autocross track for the sole purpose of attempting to text while driving.
You can probably guess how it ended before watching the video, and it’s a safe bet that all three participants now fully understand the dangers of distracted driving. Learning the lesson in the safety of a controlled environment is one thing, but too many drivers learn the same lesson, sometimes fatally, on public roads.
We tip our hats to Mazda for making an effort to address this driving safety issue, and hope that other automakers join in the crusade against distracted driving.