Distracted driving = dangerousWhen the cell phone dings, indicating the arrival of a text message, it can be difficult to resist looking, and equally difficult to resist punching in a quick reply.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
When the cell phone dings, indicating the arrival of a text message, it can be difficult to resist looking, and equally difficult to resist punching in a quick reply.
For drivers, however, having the will power to not pick up that smartphone is critical, whether it’s replying to a text or checking your fantasy baseball standings during a stretch of monotonous highway driving. Looking at the phone instead of the road is a recipe for disaster. It’s also illegal.
Driver distraction is a leading crash factor in Minnesota, accounting for around 20 percent of all crashes annually, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 injuries. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) reports that these numbers are vastly underreported due to officers’ challenges of determining “distraction” as a contributing crash factor.
In Minnesota, it is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send texts/e-mails, and access the Web on a wireless device while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic, such as at a stoplight or stuck in traffic. It is also illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cell phone at any time.
“Your focus behind the wheel is far more important than the text message you are sending or reading behind the wheel,” said Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. “This enforcement is a reminder for drivers to make a serious effort to recognize and limit dangerous and unnecessary distractions.”
It’s not only cell phones that distract us. Other driver distractions include reaching for items, fiddling with radio/music/vehicle controls, eating/drinking, dealing with rowdy passengers, applying lipstick and more.
DPS offers these tips to minimize distractions:
• Cell phones – turn off cell phones, or place them out of reach to avoid the urge to dial/answer or read or send a text. If a passenger is present, ask them to handle calls/texts.
• Music and other controls – pre-program favorite radio stations and arrange music in an easy-to-access spot. Adjust mirrors and AC/heat before traveling, or ask a passenger to assist.
• Navigation – designate a passenger to serve as a co-pilot to help with directions. If driving alone, map out destinations in advance, and pull over to study a map or program the GPS.
• Eating and drinking – try to avoid food/beverage, at least messy foods, and have drinks secured.
• Children – teach children the importance of good behavior in a vehicle; do not underestimate how distracting it can be to tend to children while driving.
• Passengers should speak up to stop drivers from distracted driving behavior.
• If making/receiving a call to/from someone driving, ask them to call back when they are not driving.
We wish you safe travels over the Easter weekend.
~ Jana Peterson