Reports nationwide indicate that D.W.D. is a factor in one-fourth of all reported auto crashes in which police are called.
Not D.W.I., or driving while intoxicated. D.W.D.: Driving while distracted.
Parents and instructors have long warned young drivers not to turn their attention from the road to change a radio station, pick up a coin, swat an annoying insect or say something to a friend in the back seat. But now the list of potentially deadly distractions seems endless.
Rampant cell phone use, in particular. If one survey of young drivers, ages 16 to 24, is to be believed, one in 10 of them is on the phone at any given time.
But that's just the beginning. Police - and reality TV-show cameras - catch drivers texting on their handheld devices while hurtling down the highway at 90 kilometers an hour. Others have been pulled over while shaving, breastfeeding babies, lifting heavy weights, staring into the rearview mirror while applying lipstick, watching the road with one eye while trying to fit a contact lens into the other, eating cereal and milk from a bowl, and filing their fingernails. Painting their toenails, too, at the end of the leg that they've stuck out the window.
Remember, we're talking about drivers of fast-moving cars here, not their passengers.
There was the woman who was watching soap operas on a computer in her lap, the man who was filling in little crossword-puzzle boxes on the seat next to him, the woman who was shaving her legs, and the fellow who changed clothes, including his underwear. Name just about anything that can be done with the human hand and arm, and troopers have seen drivers do it. When pulled over, some offenders protest that they are simply multi-tasking and are driving perfectly fine - using their knees.
Many states ban cell phone use while driving, and others have added texting to the list of illegal driving behaviors. But the laws can't seem to keep up with all the imaginative new forms of D.W.D. Painting your toenails???!
Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.