A Little Game's Big Message
Now, many of you may be aware of my easy distraction by fun or colorful things. As I opened up the New York Times homepage this morning, my senses were catered to by the offering of a game. Hooray! However, this game was rather different from many I am drawn to: this game is designed to inform players of the potentially fatal consequences of driving while texting. Though I cannot drive and I cannot text, I figured I would give the game a try.
Indeed, there is one thing that I can say: the game was quite difficult, and I found it rather stressful. Throughout the game, you receive three text messages on your cell phone which you must answer with one of the given bolded phrases. Once you answer all of the text messages, the navigation track ends and you are shown your results.
Though my results were not quite as bad as the average, they still helped to show me what might happen should I attempt to text while driving an actual vehicle. The game tracks how slow your reactions to signs are when you are texting versus when you are not, as well as the percentage of gates you miss while you are texting. My reaction time was .19 seconds slower while I was texting; however, I didn't miss any gates, so my percentage for missed gates was 0%. A box at the bottom of the screen also inquires if you noticed the gray lady while you were driving. What scared me was that I could not recall seeing the woman at all on the road. What if I had hit her?
What was frightening was looking at the average results the game had collected: the average person's reaction time was .24 seconds slower while they were texting and they missed 8% more gates while they were texting compared to when they were undistracted. And then of course, you have the extreme ends of the curve. I had one of my family members play the game to analyze their results; this family member of mine was .55 seconds slower while texting compared to when they were undistracted, and they hit 30% more gates. They also did not report seeing the gray lady.
This really was an eye-opening experience for me: imagine if my family member were driving, and received a text. Based on their performance with this game, it could be reasonably expected that they would hit a median or another car, possibly killing themselves or others. And with the average statistics, there is still that 8% higher likelihood that they would crash compared to when they were simply driving.
At least California, my home state, has taken action on this extreme issue. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles website, it is illegal to write, send, or read text messages electronic devices like cell phones, effective January 1, 2009. It is also illegal to operate a handheld phone, though drivers eighteen and older can use "hands-free" devices.
It is true, when my family first heard about the law, we were quite aggravated by the fact that we could no longer call on our rather outdated phones while driving. However, the longer we have lived with it, we have begun to accept that this law was indeed instituted for our own safety and for the safety of others. Definitely, I would not want a member of my family to fall victim of a traffic casualty that could have been avoided by merely putting down a cell phone.