A sad but timely reminder of the risks posed by the increasing use of connected technology by young drivers. The Deseret News in Utah writes about the death of Taylor Sauer.
The 18-year-old gave a classmate a ride back to Utah State University in Logan, before beginning the return trip to her home in Caldwell, Idaho.
Taylor apparently passed the time on the long drive by communicating with others on Facebook.
“I can’t discuss this matter now. Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha,” she posted on the social networking website Facebook at 8:48 p.m.
Moments later, Sauer was dead, killed after the Saturn Vue she was driving collided with a tanker truck and was then hit by a semi truck moments later.
The crash remains under investigation, and Police would not confirm if distracted driving played a factor. But Sauer’s family has its own opinions.
“We know through Taylor’s Facebook account that she was actively in a conversation 12 to 15 minutes before the accident occurred,” Warr said. “We know that Taylor had done that in the past, and we know, as a family, that that probably or may have contributed to the accident.”
A study by University of Utah psychology professor David Strayer found that talking on a cellphone while driving leads to an impairment level equivalent to that of drunkenness. When texting, an individual is twice as impaired, the 2006 study concluded.
“It’s really unfortunate,” Strayer said of Sauer’s death. “We’re seeing a greater and greater trend for this sort of stuff. There’s no doubt about it that distractions are growing.”
Strayer said advances in technology and the installation of more devices in automobiles are exacerbating the problem.
“Clearly these technologies have a capability of really making the crash risk go up,” Strayer said. “I think the problem is a lot of this stuff is flashy and kind of exciting … Just because it’s fun to do, doesn’t mean it’s safe to do.”
The National Transportation Safety Board issued a unanimous recommendation last month that all states impose a ban on cellphone use while driving, including communication on hands-free devices. The measure would be more stringent than legislation in place in any state, including Utah, which passed its own careless driving law in 2009.