Snapchat speed filter just the latest sign of the distracted driving problem

Driver distraction is becoming a major problem. What can we do?

A recent lawsuit is all over the news today.

A teen driver was using the Snapchat speed filter in a Mercedes last fall when she snapped a photo while driving over 100MPH...and then ran into another driver. The filter shows an overlay with your speed on top of a selfie. The filter includes a warning not to use it while you are driving, then rewards you with a trophy if you post high speed.

According to the reports, the teen driver -- then 18 -- even took a photo of her bloody face after the accident. The driver she hit is suffering from brain damage and is in a wheelchair.

What is the problem here? Is this an isolated incident and most of us are driving with our phones safely stowed and charging? Not really. In fact, it’s a pervasive, troubling problem.

Since moving to a major metropolitan area recently, I’ve been flabbergasted at how often other drivers use their phones while driving. I’m not talking about swiping quick to change a song. I’m talking about a phone that’s held up in front of their field of view, texting in plain site. I’m talking about people who are looking down at their phones and weaving all over the road. Since living here in the past six months, I’ve seen this on a daily basis. It’s become such a problem that I actively looking for anyone who is drifting a bit on the road. It’s the new drunk driving.

How do we stop it? First, we need to know the facts. According to the CDC, eight people are killed each day in the U.S. due to distracted driving and almost 1,200 are injured in accidents. The National Safety Council estimates that there are 1.6M distracted driving accidents per year.

It’s also partly an opportunity for the auto industry. As cars become more advanced, it’s possible to figure out ways to reduce distracted driving. In recently tested a Cadillac CTS that uses Apple CarPlay. You can press a button and use Siri to not just listen to texts but to reply to them. You never have to take your eyes off the road. Most cars do not support this yet, but it’s possibly more important (for now) than any other safety technology, including autonomous driving.   

And, it is a personal responsibility. I decided long ago not to ever use my phone while driving. I pull over in a parking lot or wait until the time is right (e.g., I’m back in my office). There is too much brain research that suggests we can only focus on one thing at a time. If you look at your phone, a dark cloud fills your peripheral vision and you cannot see other drivers.

Habits form over time. We take a quick look, then we take longer looks, then we get conditioned and think it is not a big deal. It is. To break the habit, you have to retrace your steps. Start by making a commitment to never look at your phone. Then, make a plan. Form a habit like always stashing the phone in a laptop bag or always putting it in the glove box. Make it hard to use the phone so you are not temped. Then, do that for at least 30 days to form a new habit.

I’d love to hear if this helped. Send me an email if you try this plan and if it works.

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