The Kansas Highway Patrol has seen an increase in distracted driving over the past couple of years. There are several things people do while driving that cause distractions - cell phones, car stereos, GPS devices, passengers, and pets are a few examples. One of the biggest distractions has been cell phones. People use their cell phones for talking, texting, GPS and other activities while driving.
I have witnessed firsthand the devastation and trauma texting while driving can cause. A couple years ago, I was dispatched to a two-vehicle crash. At the crash scene, the driver of the vehicle northbound was killed and the driver of the vehicle southbound was killed. The passenger in the southbound vehicle was wearing a seat belt and was treated and released from a local hospital. During the investigation, it was determined that the driver of the northbound vehicle crossed the center line. I found a cell phone in the northbound vehicle. The cell phone showed the driver was sending and receiving text messages at the time of the crash.
As an instructor for defensive driving courses we always tell people “There isn’t any text message worth it.”
Distracted driving is any activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving. The experts say there are 3 categories: visual - taking your eyes off the road; manual - taking your hands off the wheel; and cognitive - taking your mind off what you are doing.
The length of a football field
Statistics show that five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that's enough time to cover the length of a football field. Would you put a blindfold on while driving 55mph down the highway?! And a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into an accident than a non-texting driver.
Here are some tips for managing common distractions.
sTurn your phone off or put it on silent.
sPull over to talk or text. And remember, texting while driving is against the law in Kansas.
sUse passengers. Let them make the calls or text messages.
sSecure your pets. Pets on your lap while driving is a big distraction.
sKeep kids safe. Pull over to address situations with your children.
sFocus on driving. Refrain from smoking, eating, drinking, reading and any activity that take your mind and eyes off the road.
No one intends to get into a car, get into a collision and hurt somebody, but they will voluntarily engage in activities that do increase the crash risk.
Bottom line - if you get a phone call, text message, or need to do any other task that would take your attention away from driving, pull over.
Rick Wingate is a Technical Trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol in Chanute