As the nagging "need" to multitask chases us from the cubicle to the car, we're seeing more jugglers than drivers fidgeting behind the wheel. Since when is driving a circus act?
In our panic to finish everything a whole three seconds ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says nine people will die today due to distracted driving. One of them may be dead before you finish this sentence. That's a high price to pay for reading an on-the-go text asking you what you're doing tonight.
At the Texas Department of Transportation, we recorded 90,927 crashes in Texas in 2012 that involved distracted driving - talking on the phone, texting or fidgeting with something in the car, among countless other things. Of those crashes, 18,589 resulted in serious injuries and 472 resulted in deaths. Today, nearly 1 in 4 crashes in Texas involves a distracted driver. Now, if only those odds were on your side the next time you played the lottery.
Equally sobering is a report from NHTSA that says using a cellphone while driving can delay reaction time as much as having a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 -- the legal limit in Texas for drunk driving. If you're smart enough to think twice about drinking and driving, then why in the name of Bryan Cranston are you so eager to blab or text about "Breaking Bad" while passing an 18-wheeler?
Speaking of bad, another study shows sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road an average of 4.6 seconds. That's equivalent to driving the length of an entire football field while blindfolded at 55 mph! Any volunteers? I hope not.
In an effort to raise awareness about these kinds of preventable crashes, TxDOT recently launched the Talk. Text. Crash. campaign. Sadly, the need for this campaign has never been greater. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, almost half of all Texas drivers in 2012 admitted to regularly or sometimes talking on the cell phone while driving. That said, a whopping 84.9 percent of Texas drivers think driving while talking on a cell phone is a very serious or somewhat serious threat to their personal safety. Just not serious enough to put the darn thing down, apparently.
To be fair, cell phones are hardly alone in their ability to steer our eyes off the road. Fast food, kids, radio and, yes, on-the-go grooming are all up for grabs when it comes to tuning out and turning our heads. At the end of the road, that response to what you're doing tonight and other distractions can wait. Even for a whole three seconds.
Look, unless you're physically under the big top and in the circus, be a driver -- not a juggler. Still not convinced? Think about this -- how would it make you feel to see a clown driving next to you with no hands on the wheel?
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Harvard School of Public Health in an effort to call more attention to the dangers of texting while driving. Distracted driving is the cause of 350,000 crashes per year, and the series will be putting a spotlight on efforts being made to combat the crisis by the public and private sectors and the academic and nonprofit worlds. In addition to original reporting on the subject, we'll feature at least one post a day every weekday in November. To see all the posts in the series, click here; for more information on the national effort, click here.
And if you'd like to share your story or observation, please send us your 500-850-word post to impactblogs@huffingtonpost.