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Vlogging: A New Word, An Old Distraction

By now, virtually everyone has heard about the dangers that can occur when someone texts or talks on the phone while driving. After all, there have been many news stories about crashes that occurred while drivers were texting or talking on their cellphones, and most people have heard about the many deaths and injuries associated with such distractions. Despite that awareness, and the existence of prominent anti-texting and driving efforts such as AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign, the problem persists. Unfortunately, society can now add yet another form of distraction to its list of driving dangers: vlogging.

Dangers of Vlogging and Driving

Vlogging may be a word that you’ve never heard before, but the distraction it can cause for drivers will sound all too familiar. Vlogging is a term used to describe the act of “video blogging” – something that is actually harmless in its own right. It simply involves someone filming herself while talking to her audience. Most of these videos end up on sites like YouTube, where some vloggers have thousands of followers who tune in regularly to catch their favorite stars’ latest antics. Again, that is just a good bit of harmless fun.

The problem comes when vlogging is combined with driving. There are many video blog postings out there where vloggers are filming themselves while they are driving. Now, if they were merely talking during the filming, the distraction might not seem so obvious. Unfortunately, most take it well beyond just talking. In some of these vlog entries, vloggers can be seen looking into the camera for extended periods of time, even when their vehicles are in motion.

That’s precisely the type of distraction that can result in serious automobile crashes. Cellphones are already a well-recognized problem for drivers in the United States, and this is just one more example of how distracting they can be. In 2014, the National Safety Council (NSC) reported that 26 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the country involved the use of a cellphone. And that is despite an AT&T survey that revealed that roughly 98% of the drivers queried expressed awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

How Dangerous Can It Be?

To read opinions expressed in many forums online, one would think that this is no big deal. In reality, however, vlogging and driving are every bit as dangerous as texting behind the wheel – and for many of the same reasons. The NSC estimates that your chance of being involved in a crash is four times as great when you’re using a phone. Research indicates that the average driver increases the risk of an accident any time his eyes look at anything other than the road for more than two seconds at a time. Any distraction that lasts longer than two seconds could result in a loss of control or crash.

Anyone who has watched a vlogger in action will instantly recognize that the process of looking directly into a smartphone camera while you are driving certainly meets that “more than two seconds” definition of distraction. According to some estimates, a simple thing like texting requires that drivers look away from the road for roughly 4.6 seconds each time they view a text. Many vloggers maintain eye contact with the camera for even longer periods of time. And remember – in the time it takes to look at a text, a car traveling at just 55 mph can traverse the length of a football field!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reports that distracted driving is involved in crashes that kill more than 8 people a day. About 1,161 others are injured each day due to driving distractions. While those deaths and injuries encompass a broad range of distractions, they do serve to illustrate the actual risk that distracted driving of any kind can pose for drivers, their passengers, and those inside and outside of other vehicles on the road. The simple truth is that every time you allow yourself to get distracted while you are driving, you increase your odds of being in a crash that could leave you or others injured or dead.

The true tragedy in every one of these accidents is that each is entirely preventable. There is no law that requires that you answer a phone, read a text, or video yourself speaking to your YouTube fans. Unfortunately, there aren’t always enough laws preventing such behavior either.

Texas Laws on Cellphones and Driving

Texas has emerged in recent years as a leader in the restriction of cellphone usage by drivers, and that is a positive thing for Texas residents. Much of this leadership has occurred at the local level, as cities and towns have used local ordinances to try to rein in rampant cellphone abuse behind the wheel. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, these restrictive ordinances come in three varieties:

  1. A complete ban on all texting behind the wheel.
  2. A ban that encompasses all wireless device usage while driving.
  3. A ban on both texting and the use of manual wireless communications.

The DOT website lists the various cities across the state that have implemented one of those three bans. As of that listing, there were more than 60 local jurisdictions that had taken some sort of action to deal with cellphone abuse while driving.

Vloggers in Texas should be aware of their local jurisdiction’s rules with respect to using their wireless device to communicate with fans in this way. In addition to being both dangerous and unnecessary, vlogging in Texas can often be against the law – and may result in fines that can range from $200 to $500.

In a perfect world, of course, vloggers would restrict their activities to safer environments like the comfort of their own homes or offices. The simple reality is that there is no safe way to vlog and drive, so each vlogger who takes to the road to record his or her latest adventure is risking both life and limb to do so. Sadly, the lives they risk are not just their own.