Deadly Disease of Distracted Driving

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Popular distraction that causes far too many car accidents.

Madeline Del Rio, The Scroll, Wellness Editor

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving killed 3,142 people in 2019, a 10% increase from 2018. Distracted driving has been considered a deadly epidemic that claims the lives of drivers and pedestrians. As April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it is crucial to review its dangers. Forty-two percent of high school students across the United States admitted they participate in texting or emailing while driving, yet drivers of all ages contribute to this major cause of death. Thus, it is vital to emphasize the importance of staying focused on the road.

Shelly Forney was a wife and mother whose life completely changed on November 25, 2008. Her nine year old daughter Erica was riding her bike home when she was struck by an SUV. The driver made the mistake of checking his cell phone, and caused the death of an innocent pedestrian who had her entire life ahead of her. 

Though suffering with this tragic loss, Shelly realized it was essential to spread awareness about distracted driving to prevent the killing of other innocent people. Becoming an independent contract safety speaker and founding a distracted driving advocacy group called Focus Driven, Shelly has continued speaking to audiences, appearing on shows and at major events such as the Washington DC Safety Conference. It cannot be stressed enough that driving is a huge responsibility that every individual must take seriously.

Photo Courtesy of AAA
Collisions involving a teen driver are likely to be caused by distractions.

There are three types of distractions while driving that have caused drivers to lose focus and threaten the lives of others, according to experts. These include visual distractions, in which a driver takes his eyes off the road, manual distractions, in which a driver takes his hands off the steering wheel, and cognitive distractions, in which a driver thinks about something unrelated to driving. 

According to Toyota Arlington, becoming lost in thought, cell phone use, and peering at something outside the car are the most common distractions that can cause the deaths of others. Other distractions include applying makeup, smoking, and eating and drinking while driving. Every individual must grasp the vital concept that they should be solely focused on the road when behind the wheel and it is a major responsibility that none can take lightly. At the end of the day, applying more lipstick or checking a text is not worth somebody’s life.

There are countless alternatives to allowing one’s self to become distracted while driving. If an individual feels the urgency to send a text, she must pull over and park her car in a safe location. Assigning a passenger with the task of “designated texter” is an alternative offered by NHTSA in which a passenger is allowed access over the driver’s phone so the driver can focus on his sole responsibility. Cell phones are designed to be addicting and difficult to set aside. If there is a strong temptation to scroll through apps, call, or text, while behind the wheel, it may be necessary to put it in the trunk, glove compartment, or back seat of the vehicle until the driver arrives at her destination.

Photo Courtesy of Premier Law Group
Teen driving statistics

An article from LegalMatch informs that the laws governing texting while driving vary from state to state, but generally include a combination of monetary fines, criminal charges, and jail or prison time. Fines can range from as low as $20 and as high as $500 depending on the state. Texting while driving can result in criminal misdemeanor charges, and jail or prison time will be imposed if the offence resulted in bodily injury to another driver or pedestrian. Punishments will become more severe with repeated offences. 

In addition to legal consequences, other repercussions include suspension or revocation of driving privileges, mandatory road safety classes, points on one’s driving record, and vehicle impoundment, especially if great bodily injury resulted from an accident. 

It could be argued that the worst punishment of all is coming to terms with the fact that one’s distracted behavior killed an innocent human being. To spread awareness of the grave possibilities that can occur due to not being focused behind the wheel, each and every individual must take action. This can be done by reminding friends and family that behind the wheel, one must solely remain focused. As a passenger, remind the driver to put away all distractions. 

To take a pledge against distracted driving and find other ways to spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving in your community, go to https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving#take-pledge. Spread awareness on social media with the hashtag #justdrive. 

The primary action one must take to hinder the deadly epidemic of distracted driving is remaining focused and taking one’s responsibility seriously when behind the wheel.