Awareness is the First Step in Beating the Distracted Driving Epidemic
April 1, 2015 1 Comment
I’ve always been a tapper. You know the type. In school, we were the ones pounding away on our Big Chief notepads with our number 2 pencils. On road trips, we drove our parents crazy, feverishly playing along to whatever the disc jockey served up.
I am a chronic tapper who evolved – or devolved, depending on your perspective – into a recreational drummer. Like most of my peers, I abandoned the rock star dream long ago. Kids, mortgages and the need for sleep that comes with age have a way of changing priorities. I still play the occasional backyard party, and that’s enough to scratch my musical itch.
In real life, I’m a workplace safety professional. As such, I understand the serious consequences of distracted driving. And that’s where these two worlds collide, literally.
One evening about 15 years ago, I was on my way to a gig, predictably tapping along to the radio. I don’t remember the song, but I do remember that it was rhythmically challenging. Probably something by Rush, Tower of Power or some other musical geniuses who write with no regard for the virtues of common 4/4 time.
Just as I’m starting to make sense of this musical jigsaw puzzle, I take a left at a busy intersection, and someone plows into my passenger door. During the inevitable post-accident discussion and search for sympathetic witnesses, I swore up and down I had the green light. Most of us would do the same when facing the possibility of a car insurance premium hike.
Today, however, I cannot claim my innocence with nearly as much conviction as I did in the months after the accident. And here’s why: I was distracted.
Years before cell phones, GPS and MP3 players, drivers found ways to pass time behind the wheel. Whether we were tending to our kids in the back seat, listening to an incendiary talk show or simply eating lunch on the way to a meeting, we were not focused on the task at hand.
Fast-forward to 2015, and Americans are accomplishing more from the driver’s seat than ever before:
- Get directions to the nearest burger joint: check.
- Dial into a conference call: check.
- Ask Siri who played Ty Webb in the comedy classic “Caddy Shack”: check.
Unfortunately, what passes for efficiency is really a reckless habit that takes our hands, eyes and minds off of driving. Too often, the consequences are fatal.
Consider Alex Brown, a Texas teenager who was killed when she crashed her truck on a rural road. The investigation revealed that Alex was texting at the time of the crash.
And then there is John T. Gordon, an Ohio law enforcement officer who was killed when a teenager swerved into oncoming traffic and struck his motorcycle. Records later showed that the driver was using his cell phone at the time of the crash. John left behind an 11-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.
Sadly, Alex and John are just two of the many faces of distracted driving. In fact, distracted driving has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. More than 3,000 people die every year in crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each is someone’s son, daughter, husband or friend.
If you’re a distracted driver looking to change your habits, now is a perfect time to start your transformation. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the National Safety Council, U.S. Department of Transportation, Texas Department of Transportation and your friends at Texas Mutual encourage everyone to participate.
Awareness is the first step in beating the distracted driving epidemic. Once you understand the risks and you’re ready to embrace safe habits, Texas Mutual encourages you to use these free resources:
- Stay Focused Behind the Wheel
- When You Get Behind the Wheel, Give Safety a Hand
- Work Safe, Texas
- Steer Clear of Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Network of Employers for Traffic Safety