We’ve all seen it. The person in the car next to you is holding up their cell phone, the driver’s face glowing from the screen’s light while they text and drive. They’re moving slower than the rest of traffic. The dead giveaway is the weaving—and the sudden, jerky corrections to attempt to stay in the center of the lane.
Needless to say, distracted driving is not safe for anyone.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is commonly thought of as texting and driving; however, there are more questionable behaviors involved. It could be playing with the radio because you’ve heard that song way too many times. Maybe you’re looking at your navigation system to find the best way to the mall. Or you are eating while you drive and trying to dip your french fries into the ketchup. It could be you’re totally engrossed in a phone call. All of these behaviors can pull your attention from the task at hand: driving.
Distracted driving accounted for 11 percent of crashes in Pennsylvania over the last five years, killing eight people in Lehigh and Northampton counties, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. In 2015, there were over 14,800 crashes, accounting for 66 deaths, involving a distracted driver in Pennsylvania, according to PennDOT.
Doing the math
When you do the math, it becomes apparent why texting and driving can be so incredibly dangerous. Imagine you’re driving on US 119 going 55 miles per hour—you’re traveling more than 80 feet every second. You receive a text and can’t wait to read it. Because it takes an average 4.6 seconds to read or send a text, you’ve traveled roughly the length of a football field without looking at the road.
Distracted driving prevention 101
According to the CDC, every day in the U.S., distracted drivers are responsible for nine deaths and injuring 1,000 people. Some suggestions that may help keep your focus on the road:
- Wait. You can stop first and then change the station. Eat that cheeseburger and fries before or after you get on the road.
- Plan. Get your navigation system figured out before you hit the highway.
- Pull over. Ever see that man pulled over on the side of the road talking on his phone? He’s doing the right thing.
- Speak up. Be the voice of safety and reason. It’s not just kids that drive while being distracted. It’s up to you to say something.
- Take the pledge. Commit to driving phone-free today. Share your pledge with #justdrive.
Distracted drivers are more than just a danger to themselves; they are putting us all at risk. With a little planning, restraint, and some common sense, there will be fewer trips to court, the hospital, or worse.