…is driving a car. Especially if you are commuting to work.
The commute to and from work is easily one of the most mind-numbing yet dangerous activities many of us engage in on a regular basis. You take the same route, get comfortable with the same traffic patterns, and engage in an activity that you have down to a muscle memory. It promotes complacency.
So in an effort to deal with the boredom, a lot of us turn to talking on the phone, texting, reading and sending emails, yelling at the radio, putting on makeup, shaving, and eating breakfast on the go.
Over the past two decades we’ve also seen a steady progression in both size and power in the cars we drive. It used to be that a car with greater than 300 hp could be considered a supercar. Now 300 hp just means it’s an entry-level luxury sports coupe, sports sedan, or SUV. These vehicles are easily 2800 lbs in weight, and some are close to two tons. Furthermore, they’ve come with a built-in illusion of safety with their 6 airbag systems, electronic traction control, and ABS, leading to riskier driving behavior.
Unfortunately the advances in distraction technology and vehicle power and mass haven’t really had an effect on the laws of physics.
A fall off a 3.3 feet desk results in a speed at impact of 10 m.p.h. A 10 m.p.h. change in speed (Delta-V) in a motor vehicle collision is equivalent to falling off a desk. Similarly, a 15 m.p.h. change in speed is equivalent to falling 7.5 feet – off a step ladder. A 20 m.p.h. change in speed is equivalent to falling 13.4 feet – off the roof of a one story building. A 25 m.p.h. change in speed is equivalent to falling 20.5 feet – off a two-story building. A 30 m.p.h. change in speed is equivalent to falling 30 feet – off a three-story building.
A less than 20 m.p.h. motor vehicle collision should not be considered a “low speed” in regards to the human body. A fall off a 7.5 foot ladder (10 m.p.h.) may fracture an extremity. Many who fall from the roof of a one story building (15 m.p.h.) sustain injuries. Most who fall from the roof of a two-story building (20 m.p.h.) sustain injuries.
If it sounds like I’m trying to scare you, I am. What you ought to do with that fear, however, is to put both hands on the wheel, pay more attention, put down the devices, turn on your headlights, watch the guy in front, behind, and to your sides, and be ready to use your horn at a moment’s notice. It might save your life.