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The word selfie refers to a photo you take of yourself, usually with a mobile device like a phone or with a webcam, and then post it online, typically on a social media website. It was proclaimed THE word of 2013 by the Oxford Dictionary. Yet, in addition to the linguistic and sociological interest selfies provoke, taking them while driving seems to be on the rise, presenting yet another social-technological distraction and another risk in traffic
People are increasingly taking selfies and sharing them while driving, but also taking photos and even videos of distractions along the road, like a beautiful sunset, raindrops on the windshield, a vintage gas station, or anything else that may tickle their attention. As if that weren’t bad enough, some drivers then take the time to pick just the right filter for the effect they want to achieve and then post these online.
Some of the hashtags where such pictures can be found – in the millions - incl#drivingselfie, #drivingfast, #drivingtowork, #rainx.In a recent review by the AAA Mid-Atlantic, about drivers attending to their many electronic gadgets and apps while driving, the selfie trend was identified as a major hazard. And here’s why:
In the 2 seconds (at least) that it takes to take a selfie, you take your eyes off the road for a distance equal to half a football field or nearly two basketball courts. Just think of past situations when something unpredictable occurred when you were driving, and imagine what can happen in traffic over such distances.
On the other hand, taking a 6-second video, such as those popular on Vine, distracts you for 528 feet. The 15-second videos popular on Instagram would require you to neglect driving for 1320 feet.
Young drivers aged between 18 and 24, whose relative inexperience already makes them more likely to be engaged in a traffic incident, also seem to be the most likely to engage in these distractions at the wheel.
In a recent fatal accident, a North Carolina driver lost her life just seconds after posting a Facebook selfie and update on her morning commute. She apparently lost control of her car, hit a truck and her vehicle burst into flames. No evidence of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs was found, nor that of speeding, but immediately prior to the collision she had posted a series of driving selfies and status updates.
This tragic accident should serve as a reminder to all drivers that driving does not mix at all well with distractions. Whether it will discourage such practices will depend not only on legislation, which is finding it hard to keep up with these trends, but also on subsequent enforcement of any such laws.
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