The Dangers of Selfies and Driving

The Social Media Link

A selfie, of course, is a photo a person takes of himself (typically with a cell phone) and then posts on any number of social media sites. Twitter and Instagram are the sites most often used to post such photos since users who upload their selfies include hashtags so anyone looking for similar photos can easily spot them. It’s an informal cataloging of sorts. For example, a popular hashtag used by people who take photos of themselves while driving to work is, not surprisingly, #drivingtowork, and, for after work there is the #drivinghome hashtag. Other popular general, but related, hashtags include #drivingselfie, #drivingselfies, and simply #driving. The cumulative total of selfies that can be found on Twitter and Instagram with just those hashtags alone numbers in the millions. That doesn’t even include the number of selfies that were deleted and retaken, or for whatever reason were never uploaded.



The Dangers of Distracted Driving

The trend of taking selfies while driving is too new to have any solid numbers related to accidents, injuries and deaths. However, there are plenty of statistics available that show just how deadly distracted driving is in general. Since distracted driving is considered to be any activity conducted while driving that takes the driver’s attention off the road, selfies certainly fall into that category. Other distracted driving behaviors can include texting, talking on the phone, changing the radio, or applying makeup, among others.

It Only Takes Seconds

It takes an average of about two seconds to take a picture, and that doesn’t even include the time it takes to adjust the camera for the shot, and pose or smile. The two seconds is just to click the button. To put that into perspective, consider that a car going 60 MPH travels 88 feet per second. That means, in the time it takes to push the button to take the picture the car has traveled the length of more than half a football field without the driver’s eyes being on the road. Factor in the time to adjust the camera and pose, and the two seconds doubles. So, taking a selfie while driving is akin to traveling a little less than the length of an entire football field at 60 MPH while wearing a blindfold. Even if the driver did notice an obstacle, such as a car pulling onto the freeway from the roadside, he has a phone in his hand and his mind is distracted. So, his reaction time would be markedly slower than if he’d been paying attention in the first place.

Start a Conversation and Help Stop Selfies While Driving

Education plays an important role in ending distracted driving. Peter Dissinger is a Senior at Friends Central School in Philadelphia, PA who wants to educate fellow teens. His video, “Distracted Driving: Where Do You Draw the Line?” features a teen who takes a selfie, texts, eats, puts on lipstick, turns around to reach into the backseat, and often has one, if not both hands off the wheel.

Dissinger feels that the urge to socialize takes priority over safety for teens. “And kids just don’t realize that their lives are so at risk. which is something that adults do not hammer home enough.” This lack of awareness emphasizes the importance of starting conversations with teens about the severity of distracted driving.

Dissinger offers some clear steps toward reducing distracted driving accidents:

  • Parents must be strong role models. He notes, “We all know the stories of parents driving distracted. If a parent were to simply exhibit safe driving techniques, we might see less teenagers driving distracted.”
  • Put your phone where you wouldn’t be tempted to reach for it.
  • Turn off your phone.


All Drivers Can Take Part

This proactive stance is one that other drivers would do well to heed. “As the video I helped create says, everyone needs to find their line. And I hope people draw their line very firmly with distracted driving.”

The trend of taking selfies while driving easily falls under the deadly category of distracted driving. With distracted driving behaviors already causing more than 3,300 deaths a year, do we really need to add another one to the list?


U.S. Department of Transportation, What Is Distracted Driving?

Christine Norris, BA, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, “#DrivingSelfies, A Dangerous New Trend

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