Over the last weekend of October there were six fatalities in four separate car crashes in Manitoba. RCMP officers say that distracted driving was a factor in the accidents. In the age of technological conveniences at our fingertips, it is difficult to consider what is at stake when behind the wheel. Forgot to apply mascara? Need a bite of that sandwich? Want to switch songs or text a friend? Do it while you’re pulled over to reduce your chance of collision by 80%.
So what exactly are the risks of various distracted driving activities? The Canadian Automobile Association summarizes them in the table below.
Desensitizing to Risk
While texting and driving is obviously a large risk, even holding your phone and chatting is a hazard. If your odds of coming face to face with a shark increased 1-23 times, would you get out of the water? What if you could just swim peacefully without any risk at all? It turns out humans are really bad at calculating risk. We use a combination of logic and intuition to assess everyday dangers, but more often rely on our gut feeling. Harvard instructor David Ropiek discusses the concept of the Perception Gap: being afraid of relatively smaller threats and less afraid of relatively big ones. You may drive every single day to work while sipping a coffee and e-mailing your boss without incident, therefore you desensitize to any perceived risk. You may travel less frequently on airplanes, so the associated danger ‘feels’ more imminent. However, we all logically know which risk is greater. We also know that it only takes one glance at a playlist to miss a child running out into the street.
The Good News
The advances in our modern era fortunately bring conveniences to our conveniences. The Bluetooth Gods have bestowed upon us the capability to speak with someone hands-free. Books are available as audio. Green smoothies are a welcome alternative to a take-out box nestled in the passenger seat next to chopsticks. But we’ll still have to prep our kid’s belongings, makeup, and/or GPS before our journey. Gone are the days of cruising in that 1964 mustang seat belt-free with a metal baby chair tied to the bench seat.
We know better now.