It’s a great big selfie world – we’re all just living in it. No matter where you roam or what websites you frequent – Facebook and Twitter, in particular – selfies are ubiquitous. Whether the pictures are solo shots, groups, or perhaps a public figure, selfies have saturated the culture, made possible by mobile devices and “photocentric” consumers.
As fun as taking them may be, however, they’re increasingly being shot in the most inappropriate of places: from behind the wheel of a moving automobile.
All you have to do is log on to the internet to find evidence of this dangerous phenomenon. CNN reported last summer that after typing in the hashtag “#DrivingSelfie” into the social networking website Instagram, there were over 3,720 hits and nearly 10,000 posts under the hashtag “#DrivingToWork.”
As you might imagine, traffic safety officials have taken notice across the country. In the Empire State, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, in partnership with the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, recently issued an advisory to residents to not only avoid the dangerous activity but to report it to local authorities should they observe this kind of reckless behavior.
Terri Egan, DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner and GTSC Acting Chair, said that all too often smartphones are being used in ways that they weren’t intended for.
“Smartphones can provide nearly limitless entertainment,” Egan explained, “but activities like taking selfies while driving are just irresponsible. A quick search of social media or local news reports across the country show that taking selfies and even live streaming are things motorists actually do behind the wheel, with some doing so on a repeat basis.”
Where are driving selfies happening the most?
Indeed, the troublesome trend is particularly common in several of the country’s most-populous states. For example, on a per-100,000-resident basis, California motorists participate in driving selfies most frequently, at 2.5 for every 100,000 motorists, according to analysis done by the Auto Insurance Center. The rate is also elevated in Nevada, Florida, Hawaii, and Vermont.
Smartphones are more all-in-one today than ever before. No longer are consumers only able to send text messages or call; they’re able to surf the internet, peruse social media, buy merchandise, listen to podcasts and record live video, among other activities. In fact, of those who admit to recording themselves while driving, almost 30% indicated they’re able to do so safely, according to a survey done last year by telecommunications provider AT&T.
Traffic safety professionals stress that driving safely and selfie driving are mutually exclusive. Jackie Gillan, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety President, told CNN that driving recklessly is almost the equivalent of a loaded weapon on wheels.
“Taking a photo of yourself while you’re driving a 2,000-pound vehicle down the road at 50 or 60 miles per hour? That is putting your life in danger and putting the lives of those around you in danger,” Gillian intoned.
46 states prohibit all drivers from texting
In an attempt to buckle down on distracted driving, most states have passed laws that strictly forbid drivers from using their handheld devices for texting purposes. Additionally, over a dozen states now ban motorists from making phone calls behind the wheel, according to the Governors Highway Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Since these bans, some states have made the penalties more severe, requiring violators to pay hefty fines and in some cases suspending drivers’ licenses. Police officers are using different strategies to monitor motorists, with some tagging along with commercial truck drivers. With big rigs much larger and taller than typical passenger vehicles, police have a better vantage point.
Consumer safety experts point out that ultimately the only way to end distracted driving is through self-policing, where motorists take it upon themselves to never text and drive.
Distraction.gov, a website formed and maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, features news stories daily from around the country that detail how many accidents stem from multitasking, many of them fatal. Motorists are also encouraged to Take the Pledge at the website, vowing to stay phone-free whenever they’re behind the wheel.
As the safety campaign appropriately puts it, “One text or call could wreck it all.” If you haven’t taken the pledge or you have kids old enough to drive, make it a priority.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. It does not replace or modify the information contained in your insurance policy.