This past week I had the pleasure and honor of speaking to approximately 250 students at Lakeville South High School on a topic that has become an epidemic in our country, distracted driving. The response I got from the kids and adults who participated in the presentations were overwhelmingly positive. It dawned on me that the more outreach we do the better our chances of getting control of this serious problem. Therefore I am providing you with information I hope you find useful.
Smart Mobile Devices Create Even Greater Risks
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 5,474 people were killed in 2009 in crashes involving driver distraction, and an estimated 448,000 were injured. Looking at the big picture, that means 16 percent of all fatal crashes and 20 percent of all accidents across the country in 2009 involved distracted drivers. Other studies suggest:
- Drivers on the phone are four times more likely to crash
- Driving while on a cell phone (whether handheld or hands-free) reduces reaction time as much as being legally intoxicated
- Teen drivers are most likely to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported (16 percent of all teen crash fatalities in 2009)
- Texting or emailing creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted
More Drivers Accessing the Internet
In a new survey of nearly 900 motorists, State Farm Insurance found that the use of mobile Web services has increased dramatically in the last two years. The data showed that, for all drivers, accessing the Internet while on a cell phone increased from 13 percent in 2009 to 18 percent in 2011, and from 29 percent to 43 percent for drivers 18 to 29. Ironically, the study also showed that texting while driving remained flat or decreased in most instances, perhaps due to the increasing number of states that ban texting. “Calls from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and others to ban cell phones are focusing now on both texting and Web use while driving. The mobile Web is a growing issue for safety advocates concerned about distractions while driving,” said David Beigie, State Farm public affairs vice president.
Tips for Managing the Distractions
Here are 10 tips from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) for managing some of the most common distractions while driving:
- Turn It Off – Either turn off your phone or switch to silent mode before you get in the car.
- Spread the Word – Set up a special message that tells callers you’re driving and will respond as soon as you can. You can enable some phones to do this automatically when you get in the car.
- Pull Over – If you need to make a call, pull over and stop in a safe area first.
- Deputize Your Passengers – Ask your passengers to answer or make calls for you. Conversely, if you are a passenger, offer to answer the driver's phone.
- X the Text – Don’t ever text and drive, surf the Web or check email. It is dangerous and against the law in most states.
- Know the Law – Familiarize yourself with state and local laws before you start driving. Some prohibit the use of handheld cell phones in addition to texting. The GHSA offers this useful chart. http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/bystate/index.html
- Prepare – Review maps and directions before you start to drive. If you need help when you are on the road, ask a passenger or pull over to review your directions again.
- Secure Your Pets – Pets can be a big distraction in the car. Always secure your pets properly before you start to drive.
- Keep the Kids Safe – Pull over if you need to address situations with your children in the car.
- Focus on the Task at Hand – Avoid smoking, eating, drinking, reading and any other activity that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off your driving.
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