With hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans expected to hit the highway this holiday weekend, drivers are urged to put away the cell phone while behind the wheel. According to experts, the time it takes to read a text message - 5 seconds - while driving at, say, 55 mph, is like driving the length of a football field while blind. That’s more than enough time for the semi-truck you are passing to shed rubber from a low tire, or the driver of the van in front of you to slam on the brakes, or any number of other possibilities. AAA Oklahoma has estimated that more than half a million drivers will hit Oklahoma’s roads over the Memorial Day weekend, which begins Thursday and ends Monday. Nationwide, the number is more than 36 million. That’s a lot of cars, trucks and motorcycles on America’s highways and byways. Studies say that among those drivers nationwide, about 660,000 are using cell phones or other electronic devices at any given moment. More than 3,000 of them are killed, and more than 400,000 are injured in wrecks involving a distracted driver, statistics state.
Texting isn’t the only contributor to wrecks attributed to distracted driving, although text messaging makes a crash up to 23 times more likely.
Dialing while driving drives up the risk of an accident nearly 3 percent (2.8), while just reaching for the phone makes it 1.4 times more likely the driver will have a wreck. Just talking on the phone? That’s slightly less risky at 1.3. Oklahoma is among a majority of states that still have not banned the use of handheld cell phones while driving, but remains one of only 11 that still permits text messaging while driving. That puts the responsibility of waiting to text directly into the hands of Oklahoma drivers.
Make the most out of the holiday weekend. And if you drive, put the phone in the glove box, or hand it to your co-pilot, and load the navigation system and music choices before hitting the road.