Phones and driving: The real impact

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A lot of us do it. We’re driving down the road and we hear our cell phone ring with a call or a text. While some of us might not admit it, we often answer.

Many times nothing bad happens, but statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show distracted driving is increasing in all types of crashes.

But those are just statistics.

How much does using your cell phone actually impact your driving?

You can have just split seconds to avoid accidents out on the road, and you’d be surprised at how much using your cell phone can change what you do behind the wheel.

“What we’ve seen over the past two years, 2013-2014, is that distracted driving has surpassed drunk driving, DUI, in the amount of fatalities and accidents out on the roadways,” said Colorado Springs Police Department Lt. David Edmondson.

“We just feel that everything is immediate and that when that phone rings we have to answer it, we’ve got to answer that text right away,” said the Executive Director of Drive Smart Colorado, Maile Gray.

But what does answering your phone right away do to your driving? FOX21’s Kody Fisher went through a driving course to find out.

“When we go at about 20 miles an hour you’re going to have two seconds to respond and get into the correct lane. We do that two second specifically, because that’s supposed to be the minimum following distance,” said Master Drive Coach Spencer Pace.

“It really impacts their response time and even their basic ability to control a car well, and more often than not, if they’re going in a straight line everything’s fine and nothing seems to happen, but when something happens in front of them it greatly diminishes their ability to respond,” said Pace.

Fisher ran the course while talking on the phone, then ran it while sending a text. He swerved and hit several cones.

“Any time we have a couple thousand pounds of weight in motion problems can arise, whether we hit something else it’s going to be pretty significant, or even if we lose control a little bit. Keeping that weight under control is kind of a big deal,” said Pace.

“I think of myself as a decently experienced driver, so I thought I would be able to handle this course no problem, but no matter if I was talking on my cell phone, sending or reading a text, or even asked to do something with the console, it just made it so much more difficult to try and find the right lane I had to be in,” said Fisher.

Master Drive said that’s a typical response from people who go through this course.

“I don’t think that a lot of people are very aware. I think they see the vehicle now as something they can use to multi-task. Whether it’s get some work done while they’re driving, or they can make some phone calls while they’re driving,” said Pace.

This impacts all age groups.

“There’s a lot of solutions out there, it’s just people have to take advantage of them. Many cell phone carriers have options, whether it’s apps, some functions on the phone you can enable that will silence the phone while it’s in the car,” said Pace.

Law enforcement said harsher punishments are the way to go.

“All I know is that we’ve seen this has worked. When the consequences of doing this, because of the issue of safety, do you chose something like that,” said Edmondson.

“We cannot rely on law enforcement to take care of this problem. All of the laws in the land will not 100 percent cover the personal responsibility that every driver needs to take care of, just for themselves, and everyone else on the road,” said Gray.

“The phone is one of those areas that it will continue. Now you’ve got it on your watch, now you have it built into the car. That technology will continue. I think it’s just when society goes ‘you know what, we’ve had enough of teens between the ages of 16 and 24 getting killed because of that cell phone,'” said Edmondson.

While we focused on just the impacts of using your cell phone in this story, distracted driving can be anything from eating, putting on makeup, or even changing the radio.

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