Danger lurks behind the wheel when a driver redirects their attention from the road to some other distracting behavior, like talking on a cellular telephone or text messaging.
During the month of April, law enforcement agencies throughout California will be participating in the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign.
However, it’s not just cell phones causing the distraction; passenger interference, adjusting the radio or changing the CD are additional factors leading to driver inattention.
“Officers see firsthand the destruction caused by inattention,” said CHP Commissioner Farrow. “It only takes a second of distraction to result in a crash.”
In 2013, more than 57,000 drivers were ticketed for handheld cell phone talking or texting during the month-long enforcement period, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
“Drivers need to ask themselves, ‘Is that phone call or text message worth my life or the lives of those around me?’” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “The answer is simple, it’s not worth it. Every distraction affects a driver’s reaction time, and things can change without notice.”
A first time citation will cost a minimum of $159, with a second violation at least $279. Other violations for actions that can be classified as distracted driving can range even higher.
In recent years, hundreds of people have been killed in California, while thousands were injured, as the result of collisions that involved at least one driver who was distracted. This distraction can be any activity that diverts the driver’s attention away from the primary task of driving. According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, the act of talking on a cell phone can reduce more than 35 percent of the brain activity needed for driving. Essentially distractions change a seemingly good driver into a “zombie” behind the wheel.
The overall goal is to reinforce to the motoring public the dangers of distracted driving and reduce the number of people impacted by this destructive behavior.
”Parents and other adults need to set a positive example,” said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy.
“Start by never calling or texting anyone, especially your kids, when there’s a possibility they might be driving. Then let that same action follow you when you are the driver.”
The California Highway Patrol “It’s not worth it!” campaign continues to make drivers and the public aware of the dangers of distracted driving, as well as the high cost of tickets, through Caltrans changeable message signs over highways, DMV messaging in field offices, plus internet, social media and other outreach.
Following a few uncomplicated steps would go a long way in keeping you safe from distracted driving:
- Put your cell phone out of reach or turn it off when you get in the car so you won’t be tempted to use it.
- Mention on your outgoing voicemail message that you can’t answer because you might be driving.
- Don’t call or text anyone when there is a good chance that they may be driving.
- If you must call or text, pull into a parking space. The extra couple of minutes are worth it.
- The ability to safely multi-task while driving is myth. Cell phone use actually diminishes the brain’s ability to drive safely.
- Never check Facebook, run an app, read or otherwise allow your full attention to leave the task of safely driving.
So the next time you are pressed for time, and it seems like multitasking in the car is the best decision, remember those 3,328 lives that were taken because someone decided they could do two things at once. A text or call is not worth your life, or anyone else’s.