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Imagine driving the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour wearing a blindfold. Insane, right? Well, that’s essentially what’s happening when we send or receive a text message behind the wheel – we’re taking our eyes off the road long enough to drive unaware for at least 300 feet. And, since texting also requires us to take our minds off the road and our hands off the wheel, it is by far the scariest of the driving distractions. The act is not only reckless, but makes us three times more likely to experience a crash. Consider the following statistics (Source: Distraction.gov):
Last year, an estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. This is a nine percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011.
According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at any given time during the day approximately 660,000 American drivers use cell phones or manipulate electronic devices while driving.
Of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes, 11% were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
While texting and using a smartphone (for anything) are two of the most frightening distractions, the following also put everyone – drivers, passengers and pedestrians – at greater risk:
• Eating and drinking
• Reading a map
• Using a navigation system
• Adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player
It will take more than educating the public to put an end to distracted driving. It’s a start, but our nation’s growing addiction to hand-held, mobile devices seems stronger than our desire to drive safely. Currently, there are 41 states with laws banning texting while driving, but most are still figuring out how to enforce those laws. Until there’s a nationwide ban with proven enforcement measures in place, and harsh consequences the norm for lawbreakers, its unlikely things will change. If the trend in statistics shows anything, it’s that the numbers will only get worse. The time for action is long overdue. Each and every one of us can play an important role in making our streets safer. By making a pact – a promise to ourselves, our kids and each other – to put away the distractions and just simply drive, we could save so many lives. Maybe even our own.