We would like to officially announce our 2018 Scholarship winner, Johnna Ueltschi!
If we think about the society we live in today, it becomes undoubtedly clear that day by day we are more distracted from the things that matter most. Distracted driving is a growing public safety concern that proves distraction can sometimes be fatal. Distracted driving means driving without your total undivided attention on the road. When it comes to mind, people tend to think about texting and driving, or talking on the phone. While cell phone usage is the main culprit of distracted driving, it is much broader than that. People may get distracted when eating and driving, doing their makeup, if they have pets or noisy children in the car, or even changing the radio station. Our undivided attention is crucial for driving safely and can mean the difference between life and death, yet we so easily let our attention glide to trivial matters while at the wheel.
In my life, I have had encounters with distracted driving. There have been times when I’m aware I’m driving, so I make a phone call instead of texting. However, I have failed to realize I’m still taking my eyes off the road to search the person’s name and focusing on the conversation instead. In the age of constant, instant communication in the palm of one’s hand, it is sometimes difficult to control yourself and say, “this conversation can wait.” Additionally, the accessibility of having a GPS built into smartphones is both a blessing and a curse. My sense of direction is nonexistent; therefore, my GPS is always on. Some bad habits when it comes to GPS may include constantly looking down to make sure you are going the right way or changing an address. Any time I am in the car with someone who begins to get distracted while driving, I let them know it makes me uncomfortable. Typically, people do not even realize they are not paying attention to the road and are thankful to be reminded.
Distracted driving is something that can easily be avoided, yet it has such detrimental consequences all too frequently. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 people are killed every day in the U.S. because of distracted driving (2018). Additionally, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (2009) states that, for cars, “dialing a cellphone made the risk of crash or near-crash event 2.8 times as high as non-distracted driving.” This risk jumps to 5.9 times with heavy vehicles or trucks. These statistics are alarming. Not only can distracted driving cost you your own life, you can also kill or injure someone else, injure yourself, or cause property damage. It is even possible to get charged with vehicular homicide or manslaughter if you were to kill someone else while driving distracted. The consequences of distracted driving are not worth sending that text message, changing the song, eating that takeout, or fixing your makeup.
There is legislation out there to crack down on distracted driving. Currently, 47 states plus the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (2018). Even though distracted driving accidents are still increasing, these bans are a step in the right direction and should be more thoroughly enforced. Additionally, the consequences of distracted driving should be emphasized more throughout children’s school careers. Children could be taught that distracted driving is not only bad for them to do once they start driving, but they could also learn to stop their parents and siblings from doing it. There should also be more commercials on the air that are aimed to pull at the heart strings, similar to the anti-smoking commercials, to make people more aware of their tendency to get distracted while driving. A great tool to use is the iPhone’s “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature which makes it so that you cannot use your phone while you are driving. In addition, more ways to cut back on distracted driving in the future include keeping your phone on Do Not Disturb while in the car, looking at directions before leaving so that GPS isn’t needed, pulling over to eat, and making a playlist beforehand so you are not messing with the radio.
Distracted driving trends are most certainly at concerning levels. However, with increased awareness and education about the consequences, enforcement of laws, and smartphone tools that prohibit cellphone use while driving, it is possible to decrease the frequency of accidents caused by distracted driving. Nothing is worth risking losing your life or someone else’s life.
“New Data from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Provides Insight into Cell Phone Use and Driving Distraction.” Virginia Tech, 29 July 2009, https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2009/07/2009-571.html.
Pressman, Aaron. “Distracted Driving is Skyrocketing, Even with New Laws Limiting Phones in Cars.” Fortune, 10 April 2018, http://fortune.com/2018/04/10/distracted-driving-laws-vermont/