- lexus modified an nx suv so that the windshield could suddenly blank out without any warning to the driver, making it impossible to see.
- the company didn't do this just to torture people who thought they were going to be simply test driving a new car; it did it to point out how dangerous it is to check your phone messages while driving.
- people think it only takes a second or two, but the average is closer to five seconds. and more than 3000 people died in crashes that involved distracted drivers in 2019, so it's not a harmless issue.
too many of us check our phones while we're driving. full stop. but simply knowing that we do this isn't enough to get us to change our habits, apparently. this is where dramatic consumer education videos can come in handy, like the new "driving disrupted" clip (shown above) that lexus released this week just in time for the start of national distracted driving awareness month.
lexus wanted to highlight two truths about distracted driving with the video. first, most people think checking a text message while driving takes just a second or two. also, the actual average time this takes, according to the national highway traffic safety administration (nhtsa), is 4.6 seconds. in consumer-facing parts of its website, nhtsa rounds that up to five seconds, or "the length of an entire football field" if you're driving 55 mph, but however long it actually takes you to check your phone, the point here is that you're not as fast as you think you are.
to set up the video, lexus took a new lexus nx—for this purpose, renamed the nx 4.6—and turned it into a not-for-sale suv that was modified with special electrochromic film on the windshield and windows so they can instantly turn opaque and then stay that way for 4.6 seconds. lexus then recruited people to take a test drive, conveniently omitting any mention about how the windows might blank out.
this, as you might suspect, created some dramatic moments when these unwarned young people suddenly found themselves unable to see the road ahead. you can also probably guess that the many styrofoam pedestrian and bicyclist obstacles lexus conveniently placed near the track did not survive.
which is the whole point of this experiment, of course. people—including you—might think they can handle checking a text message while driving, but official statistics prove we really can't. in 2019, for example, a total of 3142 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers, according to nhtsa. the approximate cumulative death toll in the u.s. from 2012 and through 2019 is over 26,000 people. nhtsa also said that 9 percent of all fatal crashes in the u.s. in 2019 involved distracted drivers.
in lexus's trickster's test drive, the subjects all said they're now for real finished with checking their phones from behind the wheel. it's a powerful message, but it's also one we've heard before in other, at times way more dramatic, video messages. we won't be surprised if there will be many more before everyone thinks twice before grabbing their phone while driving.