COMMENTARY: Please stop driving distracted

by Nov 8, 2018OPINIONS





The other day, I was standing outside of the Ginger Lynn Welch Complex for a few minutes waiting on my wife to pick me up for lunch.  While there, I observed five instances of people driving while distracted.  Four people were looking at their phones, either texting or maybe even full-on looking at Facebook, and one young lady was putting her hair into a high ponytail – both hands off the wheel.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a total of 3,450 people died in 2015 and over 391,000 were injured in vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in the year 2016 (the most recent studied years).  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports “the fatal crash rate for teens is three times greater than for drivers age 20 and over”.  The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reported in 2009 that “text messaging made the risk of crash or near-crash event 23.2 times as high as non-distracted driving”.

The NHTSA defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system – anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving”.

Statistics from the NHTSA say that a vehicle traveling 55 m.p.h will travel nearly 100 yards, the length of a football field, in just five seconds.  So, think how far you’ll travel down the road in the time you glance down to read that text message or take a bite from your hamburger.

As I’ve stated, distracted driving takes various forms, but the one we see most often involves a cell phone.  And, I’m not picking on young people at all, but they seem to be the demographic most affected by distracted driving.  The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported in a 2015 study that almost 60 percent of “moderate to severe” vehicle crashes involving teens were the result of distracted driving.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, a total of 16 U.S. states “prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving” and 38 states “ball all cell phone use by novice drivers”.  North Carolina does not have a ban on hand-helds, but it does restrict usage by drivers under 18.  There is also a ban in the state on all text messaging while driving and well as cell phone usage by school bus drivers.

There is no text that cannot wait for you to pull over.  No text is worth getting into a serious accident and possibly injuring yourself or others.  Just pull over.

Barbara Harsha, Governors Highway Safety Association executive director, was quoted in an article appearing in The Nation’s Health, a publication of the American Public Health Association, “Driving a car is a very complex task.  It requires your complete attention.  All it takes is a glance away for more than two seconds and you can get into serious trouble.”

Please, just wait and pull over for that text.  Your life and everyone else’s is worth more.