The mordant Werner Herzog has a way of finding subject for his filmista genius that are a little edgy, or even over-the-edge and into 'weird'. A few years ago, he made a film From one second to the next of confessions by people who had killed other people by txtn while driving. I felt their pain because I had been non-fatally at the receiving end of such distraction. The dead, of course, feel no pain.
That's a while ago, when the worst you could do with your phone was make a call or send a txt. I could imagine making a call while driving and I've received calls a few times (the blessing of being Bobby-no-pals is tiny phone bills). This involves pressing the answer button, dropping the instrument in my lap and pulling into the ditch before the caller stops saying "hello? hello? hello? HELLO?" - it surely gives me 10 seconds or about 200m to find somewhere safe. But txtn while driving would just be beyond me; I know I couldn't manage the coordinated combination of movements: it's hard enough txtn on my button-phone when I'm sitting at the kitchen table with furrowed brow.
And it's nothing to do with (or little to do with) hands-free. It's the distraction, stupid. Your mind is processing information to deal with the phone and that's an aliquot of less attention to the road. We don't multitask, but we task-switch, albeit at significant energetic cost. Listening to your mother reciting her woes means that you literally cannot see the young chap on the small bicycle . . . until he is changed into the rag-doll you pull out from under your car.
Smartphones are much more alluring than button-phones: you can play Monument Valley 2; check the weather; get traffic updates; all while cruising along at 80km/h. So the temptation is there and Bloomberg reports that too many are falling to the temptation. Of course it's not just Americans who are killing each other through fatal inattention. We're in the mid-range of European countries: sucking up 41 road-related deaths per million people. Both of these articles suggest that language could make a difference. Calling the horror an accident slides the culpability from the individual to the lap of a vengeful god. Even "crash" sounds relatively blame-free imo. What about vehicular homicide? that makes your cosy surround-sound car seem more like a meat-cleaver or shot-gun. It's also annoying that the victims of road death are disproportionately smaller people: pedestrians, bicyclists, children.
Anyone care to find out why the driver of a vehicle killed someone else? If that was made clear every time it might affect out driving habits. We apparently love, or at least have got used to, reports of traffic-death. At the end of each bank holiday weekend, the carnage score is reported on all news outlets. We got no such inventory after the Hallowe'en Bank Holiday and I cannot find any post hoc reports. If there were no road deaths over the weekend why wasn't that reported? We could have been given a morale-boosting national pat-on-the-back. In any case, when road deaths are reported, we get no news about whether anyone involved had drink taken. It is presumably a cocktail of de mortuis nil nisi bonum and the case being sub judice. But it would wake everyone up to know that the young feller who whacked into the car full of kids was over the limit for alcohol as well over the limit for speed. I've made this point about fingering the boozers before. It has been suggested that we'd all drive a lot more carefully if each car was fitted with a special cage on the front bumper which held a favorite grandchild.