There are more than 3 million posts on Instagram tagged with “#driving,” nearly 50,000 with “#drivinghome,” more than 9,000 tagged “#drivingtowork” and more than 3,500 tagged “#drivingselfie.”
Approximately 660,000 drivers nationally, were using cell phones or electronic devices while driving during daylight hours in 2011, according to Linda Gorman, Communications and Public Service Director for AAA of Arizona.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers and though alcohol, speeding and not wearing seat belts are major factors, distracted driving played a role in 12 percent of those fatal accidents, according to the NHTSA.
“It’s a dangerous trend that some thousands of people do every day — posting shots of themselves driving on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram,” said Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos.
The drivers may be all smiles, but police are frowning upon this type of self portrait taking.
“If you’re driving 40mph, you’re going 60 feet a second, so even if you think it only takes a couple seconds to shoot a selfie, that’s 120 feet — your eyes are not on the road,” Martos said.
For today’s young drivers, smartphones are rarely out of sight, and each ping announcing a new message can be a siren song that’s hard to resist.
Lauren Schukowski, a student at Mesa Community College, said, “I feel bad when I text and drive, but I do it anyway because I am always on my phone. I am always taking selfies.”
Luckily, not all young drivers put looking cute before safe driving.
“You’re risking your life…just because you look cute one day. You should take it before you drive, so that you are able to look cute another day,” said Kevin Williams, a student at MCC.
According to AAA, a driver taking a photo for approximately two seconds takes their eyes off of the road for the length of nearly two basketball courts, nearly half a football field, or over half a soccer field.
“Driving is a really serious thing,” said Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
“Can you imagine if a pilot crashed and we found out that people in the cockpit were taking selfies? People would be appalled,” he said.
Arizona witnessed a substantial increase in the deaths of teen drivers in the first six months of 2012 compared to that same time period the previous year. Deaths increased from two fatalities in 2011 to nine deaths in 2012, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
“Arizona was one of only six states in America where deaths increased by more than five. However, the Arizona State Legislature failed to enact any meaningful legislation in 2013 to improve teen driving laws even though the state has some of the weakest laws in the nation to protect young drivers,” Gillan said.
In Phoenix, as of 2013 there is no law against cell phone use or texting while driving.
However, cell phone records are being subpoenaed and analyzed in instances where negligence is suspected in vehicular accidents, according to Officer Mark Nelson of the Phoenix Police Department South Mountain Precinct.