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Taking cellphones and the scientific process on the road.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
What driver, himself able to negotiate city traffic and winding rural roadways flawlessly while reading and writing text messages, has not seen how dangerously inattentive fellow motorists are while doing same?
“O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us.”
Granted, Robert Burns did not have texting while driving, precisely, in mind when he wrote “To a Louse” in 1786. But let’s not hold his technological backwardness against him. Poets reveal timeless truths about the human condition.
Scientists gather data and offer information that can help us do something about it.
Such is the worthy contribution of Thomas Dingus, himself a careful observer of people and their interactions with machines, whose interest in traffic safety combined with his leadership of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have provided the public with this bit of knowledge:
“Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent — at 55 mph — of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.”
Envision an 80,000-pound rig bearing down in your rearview mirror, with traffic stopped ahead. There’s nothing like the sheer weight of a big rig to drive home the cautionary message of that data point, especially when taken together with this one:
“Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.”
These fun facts, found on distraction.gov (the Official U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving), are credited to VTTI. Its researchers calculated the danger of texting while driving by using cameras and electronic sensors to monitor driver performance over lengthy periods — months or years — and translating the data into useful information for policy makers. Many states, including Virginia, have banned texting while driving.
VTTI’s innovative approach helps to explain why Dingus has won a White House “Champion of Change” award, one of 11 given nationwide for “exemplary leadership in developing or implementing transportation technology solutions.” In this case, to a hazard created by new technology, made mobile and combined with a timeless human inclination toward self-deception.
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