Distracted driving is one of the fastest-growing safety issues on the road. Eight Americans are killed every day in a car crash involving a distracted driver, and more than 1,000 are injured daily in such accidents, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In the peak of the summer tourist season, over 6,800 vehicles can drive through Newberry and the surrounding areas. If any number of those drivers participate in distracted driving, it could not only put their lives in danger but put the lives of everyone else on the road in danger.
Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts attention from driving, this includes talking or texting on your phone, eating or drinking, attending to children, talking to passengers, and making changes with the radio or navigation system. You cannot drive safely unless you are paying full attention to the road. Cell phone use is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text, reading directions, and making phone calls can take your eyes off the road for as little as 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that is like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed! Research shows that the brain remains distracted for 27 seconds after dialing, changing music, or sending a text using voice commands.
To prevent tragedies due to distracted driving, motorists are urged to:
- Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
- Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
- Speak up when you are a passenger and your driver uses an electronic device while driving. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the driving task.
- Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are the best defense against unsafe drivers.
Distracted driving is a preventable hazard that we all must take seriously. Many states are enacting laws to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. Bill 4181 was passed by the House and referred to the Michigan Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on January 8, 2020. The bill would prohibit all drivers under the age of 18 from hand-held cell phone use, except to report a traffic accident, medical emergency, serious road hazard, crime, or other emergencies. Adults are exempt from this bill.