E-Newsletter #193: Anti-texting Campaign Stirs Member Response

The subject of texting while driving always elicits strong reactions from NMA members. Last week’s E-newsletter (#192: It Can Wait) describing a public awareness campaign to discourage texting while driving prompted many thoughtful responses. We thought we would share a couple.

From a New York member:

As a commercial pilot it is necessary to multitask, especially during single pilot operations. Landing at night in a crosswind at an airport with a control tower: talking to approach, navigating, adjusting power, operating wing flaps, changing from approach to tower radio frequencies, making sure the aircraft is properly configured for landing and sometimes executing a missed approach and doing everything all over again are all part of the multitask routinely demanded of pilots. It is possible to successfully multitask but one needs to be limited only to the bare essential tasks.

Texting while driving does nothing to accomplish the primary mission of moving the vehicle safely from one place to another. Texting is a peripheral and distracting endeavor.

To my mind a SECOND conviction of texting while driving should include confiscation of the texting instrument and permanent prohibition of carrying any instrument capable of texting in any motor vehicle.

In essence texting, as opposed to talking on a cell phone, is unnecessary, distracting and dangerous. Traffic is difficult enough, and at 60 mph a vehicle travels 88 feet per second. In a car a collision is often closer than 88 feet distant.

I believe texting should be impressed upon the motoring public as a highly inappropriate activity while operating a motor vehicle. It might be appropriate to remove texting functions from cell phones or program cell phone networks to not transmit text messages from cell phone instruments in motion. Although I’ll admit that I’ve narrowly escaped being hit by drivers more heavily engaged in their cell phone conversations than their primary driving responsibilities.

Being involved in an accident while texting or conducting a prolonged cell phone conversation should be considered a serious motor vehicle violation.

Much greater emphasis must be placed on educating the motoring public of the clear and present danger of texting while attempting to operate a motor vehicle. I can’t imagine a text message so urgent that it can’t wait.

From David Maxson, Massachusetts:

In driver’s education 40 years ago the “quick glance method” was promoted for any activity that would take your eyes off your direction of travel. In my profession, I have had the opportunity to consider driver distraction in light of electronic displays (for example, dynamic billboards along the highway). The research I have read indicates that 2 seconds is absolutely the longest you want your eyes/attention off the road, and 1 second is the limit to aspire to. Dynamic billboards, if programmed by hazard-concerned companies, will use a 1-2 second cross-fade from static display to static display so as not to create a jarring transition in the peripheral views of drivers.

I apply a second rule that forces me to recapture what is happening on the road before diverting for another 1 second of distraction. I am sure there is science behind this as well—how many 1-second glance-offs can you safely do in 10 seconds? 3-4? 1 off/2 on, 1 off/2 on, 1 off/2 on, 1 off? Maybe 1 off/3 on, 1 off/3 on, 1 off?

Then there is following distance… increase it before engaging in on-board activity, and if appropriate, go a little slower. Then learn to discriminate between stable flow conditions and conditions that require more attention to the road and less to the activity (intersections, merging traffic, construction, pedestrians, etc.).

If only the researchers would repurpose their distraction testing apparatus to be distraction training apparatus, people could learn about distractions of all kinds in a structured way! We could develop and promote a simple rule like the old “quick glance method” to educate drivers: for instance, a “3/1/3 rule.” For every three seconds your attention is on the road, take no more than one second off. Do it no more than three times in a row. Would be cool to test it in an academic setting.

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