If you’re not familiar, distracted driving is any time a driver takes their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off of the primary task of driving safely. Examples can include texting, using a cell phone or hands-free device, eating, drinking, talking, reading, using a navigation system, watching a video, or being focused on the radio. In recent years, the amount of drivers participating in dangerous behavior as the result of a cell phone usage has continued to rise. It has risen to the point that there is a bonafide epidemic occurring on our nation’s roads. Dangerous, selfish behavior by a driver not only puts their own life at risk, but endangers the life of every other driver on the road. Something must change before this epidemic spirals out of control.
Last year, U.S. fatalities from traffic accidents rose 7.2% to 35,092, marking the largest increase in 50 years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving played a role in 10% of those deaths. It was also revealed that fatalities from distracted driving crashes increased 8.8% to 3,477. Motorists are engaging in distracted behavior more than HALF of their time spent driving. It is estimated that at any given time of day across the country, approximately 660,00 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. Unfortunately, that figure only continues to increase.
Auto insurer Everquote recently released a survey of 2,300 drivers. In it, practically all of the respondents (96%, to be exact) said he or she is a safe driver. However, 56% later admitted to using a phone while driving. Even more revealing, 96% of those that use Everquote’s Everdrive app used their phones at least once in the past 30 days. Drivers averaged about one call per trip.
Furthermore, the NHTSA found that deaths involving speeding rose 3% in the past year. Yet, 42% of surveyed drivers didn’t consider 10 miles per hour over the limit to be speeding. An additional 10% did not consider 20 miles per hour over the limit to be speeding. Even so, national data demonstrates that even a 10 mile per hour speed increase can increase the risk of a crash by nearly 10%.
Clearly, there is a disconnect between the information drivers are being given in their drivers ed classes or defensive driving course, and the actions they are choosing to take while behind the wheel. Whether it is apathy on the part of the driver in learning the information, or poor educational practices, improvements must be made before more lives are lost.
Often times, drivers feel these courses are a waste of time; requirements mandated in the state that are blocking their freedom, and nothing more. However, there is valuable information that is taught in these courses, and it is a shame that more don’t embrace this when taking a course. It is important to enroll in a class that is worthwhile and engaging. Many online drivers ed courses meet state requirements, and are even encouraged by the state. They allow the user to learn the information at their own pace, which can help with retention of the information. A positive learning experience could yield countless dividends once a driver gets behind the wheel and is faced with the temptations that come with distracted driving.
Currently, there are still 11 states that do not consider texting and driving a primary offense. Texting and driving is as dangerous as drinking and driving, and drinking and driving is considered a primary offense by every state. Florida is one of the eleven states that does not consider texting and driving a primary offense. This legislation is often ignored, tied up in partisan politics over individuals’ rights. As a secondary offense, a police officer cannot pull you over if texting and driving is the only infraction you are committing – the officer can pull you over if you’re violating an unrelated traffic offense, and then also cite texting as a violation.
Texting and driving while on the road should be a no-brainer case as a first offense across the nation. Safety should trump politics, and the reality is that when a driver chooses to distract themselves by texting, it is not only their life that they are putting in danger – it is the lives of every single driver around them on the road that day. In 2013, only 55 percent of American adults owned a smartphone. Now, the number is as high as 70 percent.
At the very least, texting and driving should be a primary offense for juveniles, as has been proposed as a bill within the Florida legislature. Hopefully, catching infractions early enough into a young driver’s career should serve as a deterrent to continue to do-so in the future, and should hopefully prevent bad habits from developing.
Is that text message really worth your life?
Read that. Ponder it. Consider it. Digest it. Please, don’t just glance over it.
When you’re driving, you are in charge of a 4,000 pound projectile traveling up to 70 miles per hour. Pause and appreciate the severity of that. One text message, one sip of coffee, one newspaper article – NONE of those are worth your life, or more importantly, someone else’s life. The only person that can accept that and make that change is you. Yes, a defensive driving course can help with education. But when push comes to shove, it is you, and only you, who can overcome temptation and focus on the road. Everyone always says, “What’s the harm? It’s only this one time.”
One day, that “one time” will be your last time. Put the phone down, and focus on the road, before it’s too late.
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