By Dr. Alison Escalante
How dangerous is it to text and drive? Nikki Myles would tell you it’s extremely dangerous. When I asked her to tell me the story, she poured her heart out. This summer she was hit by a texting driver. This is her story:
“I was driving, and I looked up and I saw that there was a younger girl behind me. She looked like a newer driver with a friend in the passenger seat of her car. I saw in my rear view mirror that she was on her phone and it looked like she was either texting or trying to take a selfie of herself. I remember looking up and being like, “Wow, one day this girl is going to cause an accident!”
Probably ten seconds after that went through my head, I’m sitting in my car and I’m literally thinking, “Oh my gosh, why is my car moving? Why is my car moving? Why am I being pushed into the car in front of me?”
And it took a moment to click that “oh my gosh, this girl, she hit me!” So from that point, since I was stopped, she was able to hit the gas and push me. During their investigation, the police determined that she had to be driving over 55 miles per hour. So I essentially accordioned between the car in front of me and her car, hitting me from the back.
Nikki’s accident happened only four minutes from her home. “I think for a brief moment there, there was total confusion because I had been literally sitting there like, “Oh my god, I cannot wait to go home and get some water.” So I’m sitting there and it kind of took me a moment and I was like, “Why is my car moving, I have my foot on the brake?” So I then naturally started to pump my break because I was like, “Oh my gosh!” For a fleeting moment it didn’t quite register what happened with me.
After she hit me with such force, I hit my head on the headrest. My head flew back and hit the headrest and then flew forward. Thankfully, I did not hit the dash or anything of that nature. And then I was abruptly stopped by the car that was in front of me, so I then hit my head two more times during that incident.
I had no distractions, I didn’t even have a radio on. So I was very confused as to how my foot is on the brake and everyone in my lane is stopped. So I hit my head and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I just got hit.” And then there was a sense of fear… I felt my body’s natural instinct, the whole fight or flight instinct.
At first, Nikki was able to get out of her car and talk to the police. It did not take long before she started to feel dizziness, nausea, neck and back pain. She found she was distracted by the worst headache she’d ever felt.
Later that day Nikki was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury as well as back and neck injuries. She received months of physical and occupational therapy as she continued to have pain, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating and remembering things. She has seen neurologists, orthopedists, and undergone extensive neuropsychology testing. Her neuropsychologist was able to pull her records from high school and college, and show that there was a drop in motor skills, memory and most of her other abilities.
“Pretty much everything is different now,” Nikki told me. Even after almost a year, she is not fully recovered. She experiences motion sickness, often triggered by light or sound, and has to take anti-nausea medication to manage it. Like many people who have had significant traumatic brain injuries, she now requires medication treatment with Adderall, a stimulant typically used in ADHD, to manage her cognitive difficulties.
“At first I was pretty embarrassed about the fear,” Nikki confessed. “What fear?” I asked. “Well, the fear of driving. I guess it’s a natural instinct for anyone to be apprehensive of that activity after going through something so horrific.” She does drive now, but the apprehension remains.
I asked Nikki why she had shared her experience with me. “There needs to be more awareness,” she explained. “The more people can be educated about the dangers of texting and driving…well, it just doesn’t need to happen. There’s no need for it. All of this could have been prevented if she didn’t feel the need to be on her phone.”
How dangerous is it to text and drive?
How dangerous is it to text and drive? The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving.
1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
The NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) wants us to know that distracted driving is a true danger. Distracted driving is anything that takes your attention away from driving. But of all of the things that distract us, texting is the worst. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.” (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
What can you do to help stop texting and driving?
- Parents can talk to their teens AND show them they mean it by never using their phones while driving themselves. If they see us using our phones, they will do it too.
- Teens can speak out to their friends and get the word out on social media. The more it’s not cool to text and drive in your social group, the less your friends will do it. Speak up if a friend is driving you while texting: this is your life they are playing with.
- Teachers can spread the word at school.
- Employers can educate at the workplace about distracted driving.
- All of us can be a voice in our community for safety, and we can vote for laws that discourage texting and driving.
Alison Escalante MD is a Pediatrician on a mission, with a clear, 3-step method to help parents raise kids skillfully AND enjoy doing it. She is a TEDx speaker and writes a column for Psychology Today. Find her at ThePrimaryCarer.com or watch her TEDx talk HERE.