In addition to all of the other things we are supposed to be aware of this month, the National Safety Council has declared April “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”
I know that I certainly am aware of distracted drivers. Every morning during the school commute, I point out to my kids the drivers I see that are texting, talking on the phone and in some cases, people texting while bicycling in traffic. And these are the people I see in a short morning car ride. In previous years, I worked as a crossing guard for a local elementary school. I can honestly say from the standpoint of someone whose job it was to ensure kids’ safety that this job was a challenge every single day. Distracted drivers on the roadway have nothing on hurried, multitasking parents driving in a school zone. I had the experience of nearly being run over by a slow moving vehicle whose driver was staring down at her lap. Had she hit me, I seriously doubt she would have even known. There is incredible disparity in our priorities when we are willing to put lives at risk just to carry on a conversation or send a quick text message. We truly have become a society that is attached to our electronic devices. Thankfully the laws have caught up with the times. Bottom line, it is illegal to text and drive, folks. Last month, a local teacher lost her life in a car accident caused by a distracted driver. In 2011, a small child in Rohnert Park was killed by a driver who was texting. For her blatant disregard of the law, the driver received probation and community service. While I commend the laws on the books, I think its safe to say they aren’t discouraging anyone. Driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The federal agency reports that sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent — when traveling at 55 mph — of driving the length of an entire football field while blindfolded. The gravity of these statistics is ignored by the vast majority of drivers on the road today. I commend the changes that have occurred, but in light of statistics drivers who choose to disregard them should be punished in the same vein as drunk drivers. I dont know of anyone who received little more than community service for driving drunk. The risks should have the same potential consequences. Until drivers fully realize this, the epidemic–and it is one–of texting/driving will continue.
Until that happens, I urge pedestrians to be pro-active when crossing streets and bicyclists to stay in designated bike lanes. And to those driving vehicles on the roadways…put down your phones and drive.