By Charlotte Lane
Public Service Commission Chairman
April is Distracted Driving Month, and the Public Service Commission has joined with other law enforcement agencies nationwide to deliver this lifesaving message. Officers are patrolling the state’s highways to reinforce it with commercial motor vehicle drivers.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes that involved distracted drivers killed 3,142 people in 2020, 8% of all fatal crashes in the country. Since 2012, when NHTSA started tracking distracted driver accidents, more than 29,000 lives have been lost in crashes involving distracted drivers. People who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash. Alarmingly, about one in five people killed in crashes involving a distracted driver are not in vehicles – they are walking, riding bikes or otherwise outside the vehicle.
Teenage drivers are especially impacted. AAA found distracted driving is responsible for over 58% of teen crashes. Recently, 39% of high school students reported texting or emailing while driving during the past month, and among drivers age 15-20 involved in fatal crashes, 9% were distracted at the time of the crash. Not all teenagers are equally likely to be involved in a motor vehicle crash. Teenage males are almost twice as likely as teenage females to be victims of motor vehicle fatalities.
Texting may be the most obvious offence, but anything that takes one’s attention away from driving poses a danger to oneself, one’s passengers and everyone who shares the road with a person. Seemingly harmless activities such as tuning the radio or adjusting the climate control can take one’s attention off the road. A driver should never even consider eating, applying makeup, styling one’s hair, or shaving while behind the wheel. That may sound far-fetched, but people do it. Children and pets should be securely belted in before setting out on the road. When a person is behind the wheel one’s only job is to safely navigate from Point A to Point B.
It takes less than five seconds for a car traveling 55 mph to cover the length of a football field; a lot can happen in five seconds.
So, fasten the seatbelt, put down the phone and let’s all arrive safely.