The makers of the documentary “3 Seconds Behind the Wheel” did not want to preach.
“What I really wanted to do was just lay it out there. Show human behavior,” explained producer Jennifer Boyd of West Hartford-based Boyd Productions.
So the worked with a company to put cameras in the cars of 8 subjects and recorded their driving behavior for 6 months. Boyd took on the project after she studied the rising number of distracted driving crashes.
“The concept of it becoming the drunken driving issue of our time really started to resonate,” Boyd said.
She worked with UConn and the Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center to analyze the video. You would think the cameras would improve that behavior, but the drivers quickly forgot the cameras were there.
“We had several close calls where you would see the face reaction,” said Eric Jackson, PhD, Director of CTSRC. “You would turn the camera around and see somebody pulled out in front of them or cut them off.”
Mostly what they saw, however, were phones. Lots of phones.
“You know, selecting songs, instant messaging, looking at social media, swiping left, swiping right,” said Boyd.
They also saw lots of eating. Not fast food, either, but sometimes an entire plate of food right there on the dashboard. Some drivers lett go of the steering wheel entirely. On average, their eyes left the road for, yes, 3 seconds.
“For 3 seconds of distraction at 45 miles per hour, you travel the length of a football field,” Jackson explained. “That’s a long way to travel without your eyes on the roadway.”
Nobody was more surprised at those distractions than the people in the video
“And all of them were just floored about how they looked distracted,” Boyd said.
Researchers pointed out one young driver named Nathan. He seemed surprised that the experts deemed him most likely to be in a crash, but then Jennifer showed him the video.
“I’m scared myself, watching myself drive around other drivers, like I’m putting them in danger,” Nathan said in the documentary.
That is the point, to open some eyes to where their eyes are.
It is behavior that Jennifer hopes to change by taking what regular folks do behind the wheel and showing it to the rest of us.
“Something might click with them without someone saying, ‘You shouldn’t do that,'” Boyd said.
“3 Seconds Behind the Wheel” was released Monday to coincide with Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It is available on Amazon Prime and will be broadcast on local public television stations.