Dangers of distracted driving

By Keilani Middleton

A woman leaves her home after a heated argument, recklessly drives into oncoming traffic and collides with a motorcycle.

The rider is launched through the air, slams into the pavement and bounces several times before he comes to an abrupt halt.

The cyclist quickly jumps up and pats himself in attempts to assess any physical damage. He notices only minor scrapes and a medium-sized hole in his jeans which exposes his right knee before a sigh of relief escapes his lips.

Simultaneously, the driver runs frantically toward her victim offering apologies and concern. The pair comforts each other with an exchange of small talk while waiting for emergency personnel. Thankfully, neither was killed.

Drunk drivers are not the only hazards on the road. Distracted drivers are just as dangerous.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the three types of distractions are visual, taking your eyes off the road; manual, taking your hands off the wheel and cognitive, taking your mind off what you’re doing.

The major concern is the use of hand-held devices and texting while driving. Thirty-two states including California and New York have implemented laws to ban use, while Texas only enforces limitations in school zones and some construction areas.

In 2008, more than 20 percent of fatalities involved some type of distraction. The highest reported fatality rates are among young, inexperienced operators.

Pedestrians are also at risk when captivated by the same instruments while walking. Adults admit about 49 percent have received or sent texts while driving, and about 44 percent have been a passenger while a driver has done the same.

The U. S. Department of Transportation has launched a campaign to educate awareness of the hazards. Commercials on TV have replaced mannequins with humans to show the dramatic effects of a real life crash.

Radio stations frequently air commercials to reinforce audible learning. Websites specifically geared to expose the issues have the latest statistics and prevention techniques.

The word is getting out. But are people listening and changing their habits? It is time for a real self-assessment, and everyone has to work together. One person’s negligence can start a domino effect.

At one time, the drunk driver was the only villain on the roads, and various organizations diligently fought hard to rid the roads of this vermin. Now times have changed, and the culprit could be parents chauffeuring children, college students, teachers, grandparents, daughters or sons.

Sometimes a tragic experience causes change. The characters in this story are real. In fact, I was the reckless driver. I had no intentions of hurting anyone that evening. I was trying to cool off.

I admit I was physically in the vehicle but mentally still at home replaying the conversation over and over in my mind. My failure to yield at the stop sign caused a chain of events that could have been prevented.

Passengers, drivers, pedestrians and everyone else play a key role in promoting safety. It is imperative to take this subject seriously. Eliminate distractions and remain actively engaged in driving.

Author: The Bells Staff

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