The last thing that those who text and drive want to hear are lectures from the Connecticut Attorney General and Connecticut Motor Vehicle Department Commissioner is about the dangers of texting and driving.
Funny thing though, one week before today’s press release lecture from Attorney General George Jepsen, the Wall Street Journal had an informative story about the dangers of multi-tasking and how our brains are not wired to do two different things well at the same time – like texting and driving.
Here are a couple of paragraphs from that story that made a lot of sense to me, someone who does multitask:
The process of switching back immediately to a task you’ve just performed, as many multitaskers try to do, takes longer than switching after a bit more time has passed, say findings published last fall by researchers from the National Institute of Mental Health. The reason is that the brain has to overcome “inhibitions” it imposed on itself to stop doing the first task in the first place; it takes time, in effect, to take off the brakes. If you wait several seconds longer before switching tasks, the obstacles imposed by that shutting-off process are reduced.
Managing two mental tasks at once reduces the brainpower available for either task, according to a study published in the journal NeuroImage. Marcel Just of Carnegie Mellon University asked subjects to listen to sentences while comparing two rotating objects. Even though these activities engage two different parts of the brain, the resources available for processing visual input dropped 29% if the subject was trying to listen at the same time. The brain activation for listening dropped 53% if the person was trying to process visual input at the same time.
“It doesn’t mean you can’t do several things at the same time,” says Dr. Just, co-director of the university’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging. “But we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can do so without cost.”
So if you read Jepsen’s press release in the context of the WSJ article, it may have more meaning:
The social media campaign is a joint effort by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the state Attorneys General and the Ad Council, to extend the message of the “Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks” campaign and website launched last year at this time. New public service announcements (PSAs) feature NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne.
“Driving is one of the most dangerous hazards facing young adults. Texting while driving is a distraction young drivers can live without,” Attorney General Jepsen said.
According to the NHTSA, distracted driving is the number one killer of American teens. Nationwide in 2010, more than 3,000 people were killed and an additional 416,000 were injured due to distracted driving, which includes texting while driving.
In Connecticut, the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) notes that motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for 15 to 19 year olds. Talking on the phone or with passengers, texting, selecting radio stations and other distractions increase the risk of a serious crash, the department said.
“Texting while driving invites crashes that can change promising lives of teens forever,” said Commissioner Melody Currey. “At DMV for several years, we have campaigned to raise awareness among our youngest drivers about texting-while-driving dangers. We even focused on it in our annual teen safe-driving video contest for teens talking to teens about safety.”
“But it is also the responsibility of parents to monitor teens’ behaviors,” the Commissioner said. “Even the slightest hint that their young teen driver may be texting behind the wheel means the parent should take away the car keys. It’s time for a discussion about how very dangerous that simple act can be.”
Attorney General Jepsen said “while the threat to personal and public safety is the paramount concern, drivers of any age should be aware that texting while driving in Connecticut can also result in hefty fines and license suspension.”
Connecticut law prohibits use of handheld cell phones and texting while driving. Fines range from $125 for a first offense to $400 for a third or subsequent offense. In addition, the state DMV will suspend the driver’s license or learner’s permit of a 16- or 17-year-old for 30 days to six months for any conviction of violating a teen driving restriction or using a cell phone or text messaging device while driving. Those teens will have to pay a $175 license restoration fee as well as court fines.
A national survey released released by the Ad Council today noted that 60 percent of young adult drivers (16-24) said they had texted while driving. The young adult drivers also said that friends are the most influential source to encourage them to curb their texting and driving habits, (44 percent), followed by their parents (33 percent). Notably, 88 percent of texting drivers said a law against the behavior would encourage them to completely stop, or be less likely to text while driving; and 96 percent of young adult drivers said large fines, a suspended license and/or jail time, higher insurance rates and other financial and legal consequences would encourage them not to text while driving.
The online survey, commissioned by the Ad Council, was conducted in partnership with ORC International’s Online CARAVAN® Youth Omnibus. Research was conducted nationwide from April 3 to 6, 2012. The sample consisted of 862 teens and young adults, all of whom had a valid driver’s license, junior license or learner’s permit.
Friends and parents of young adult drivers, and other safe driving advocates, are invited to share status updates from the Stop the Texts campaign’s Facebook and Twitter pages. A complete toolkit for Stop the Texts Day is also available to provide additional ways the public can participate.
In Connecticut, students are helping to get the message out about the dangers of distracted driving. Among the student-produced videos from the DMV’s annual Teen Safe Driving Contest: Hall High School, West Hartford —http://youtu.be/JlJc8XbmVHw; East Lyme High School – http://youtu.be/5TTKpQEmFPs; Arts at the Capitol Theater in Willimantic http://youtu.be/k-x40kZ8ryw; Masuk High School, Monroe http://youtu.be/vfPmB12MOL4; Coginchaug High School, Durham http://youtu.be/pmmzk_E1GVA;
Assistant Attorney General Phillip Rosario, head of the consumer protection department, assisted the Attorney General in this effort.
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