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Distracted driving leads to…distracted flying?

Distracted flying - Heiting & IrwinMany people have a fear of flying: up to 40% have “some degree of anxiety about flying,” according to aviation psychologist and organizer of the international fear-of-flying conference Dr. Lucas van Gerwen. Nonetheless, most are reassured by the fact that plane crashes are rare and that flying is statistically safer than driving.

However, recent news may make you pause when considering when to book your next flight: the possibility that your pilot is engaging in “distracted flying”. Most Americans have heard of the danger of distracted driving (link to distracted driving post)—texting, talking on a cell phone, eating, and engaging in other distracted behaviors—but few may have realized that distracted flying is also a problem in the U.S.

Rules have already been in place for years barring “the use of any personal gadgets during critical phases of flight.” These critical phases typically include any operations when taking off or landing the plan. Nonetheless, Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration are working to broaden these rules. A new proposal by the Federal Aviation Administration includes a “near-blanket ban” on the use of personal gadgets.

The proposal comes as a result of several incidents related, shockingly, to distracted pilots operating a plane. In 2009, a Northwest Airlines crew fly past their intent destination, Minneapolis, by 150 miles. The pilots of the plane reported being distracted as they viewed a personal computer. In another tragic incident, a plane crashed into a house in Buffalo in the same year. While distracted flying was not the cause of the crash, the pilot did send a text message just before the plane took off.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposal would allow pilots and crew to use personal gadgets only for safety reasons.

This is a step in the right direction. Operating any kind of vehicle—whether a car, motorcycle, bus, or plane—should be done with the utmost attention and care. The epidemic of distracted driving and distracted flying demonstrates that many Americans are either unaware of or do not take seriously enough the potential for damage that these behaviors can cause. To prevent the thousands of injuries and deaths that occur every year, all Americans need to put down their phones while behind the wheel.

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