Distracted driving claims many, many lives needlessly

Ron Craig, Crime Prevention/Community Policing Officer

        April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so there is no better time than now to take a close look at this issue and realize just how deadly it is.
        Each year, thousands of people lose their lives on our highways because they or someone else is not paying attention to their driving and what is going on around them. I have been a victim of it and have lost a close friend to it.
        A few years ago, I was driving with my wife in Findlay and was rear-ended by a driver who was texting instead of paying attention to traffic.
        More tragically, a good friend of mine was killed on US 30 in Wyandot County when she ran into the back of a semi tractor-trailer rig that was stopped in a construction zone. It was later determined that she was texting at the time. She left behind a husband and three small children, including a 10-month-old baby.
        Distracted riving is generally considered any behavior that takes away the attention of a driver of a motor vehicle from the task of driving. That may sound over-simplistic, but that’s the nuts and bolts of it.
        According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,142 highway deaths in 2019 due to distracted driving. This is the last year for which statistics are available.
        These numbers are probably skewed (artificially low) due to the underreporting of distracted driving, mainly because drivers are reluctant to admit they were texting or doing something else at the time of a crash.
        There is no doubt the explosion in distracted driving incidents is directly related to the use of cell phones by drivers as they are going down the road, particularly when they are texting.
        We must find ways to impress upon our youngest of drivers the importance of putting the cell phone down while they are driving. Not only are they among the least experienced of drivers, but they are the most likely of drivers to be texting and calling while driving.
        Of course, cell phone use is not the only cause of distracted driving. Something as simple as tuning the radio is enough of a distraction to cause a crash. Vehicle manufacturers have done a good job of incorporating radio controls into the steering wheel to reduce this factor.
        Having kids in the car is another cause of distracted driving. If you have older children, task them with taking care of younger siblings so you may concentrate on driving.
        Before looking away or mentally taking your mind off the road while driving, ask yourself if it is something that can wait until the destination is reached. If it can’t wait, is it possible to pull safely off the road? These are things to consider regardless of if the driver is alone, but it becomes exponentially important if kids are on board.
        We can have a serious impact on distracted driving if we make it a priority. One of the best ways to teach others, especially our youngsters, is by leading by example. Put the cell phone down and leave it down while you are driving.
        This article is a public service from the Community Policing/Crime Prevention Division of the Lake Township Police Department. Township residents may obtain further information on crime prevention and public safety topics by contacting Ron Craig, crime prevention specialist/community policing officer, at 419-481-6354.


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