April is National Distracted Driving Month and the purpose of this is to educate the public about the dangers of driving distracted. Please don't stop reading this now and say "I've heard this all before." I can't emphasize the importance of this topic and the alarming rates of accidents due to distracted driving. I drive the Lincoln Highway to and from work, and every single day I notice drivers with their heads down as they pass me. Several times I have noticed their car going over the center line or into the stones on the other side of the road. Now I can't say for certain if they are texting or dialing with their cell phone but I do know they are distracted by something. I am not just writing this and speaking only to our students. I hope everyone reading this would please take this serious. I have seen students as well as adults driving distracted.
According to official reports by the National Safety Council (NSC), 26% of all car crashes involve cell phone use, including hands-free. I recently purchased a new Ford Focus and it has the hands-free driving. I have made several phone calls and text using this hands-free option. I assumed that because it was sold with the new cars, it was safe. I am not alone, 80 percent of American drivers believe hands-free devices are safer than using a hand held phone and 53 percent think the devices must be safe because they are built into the vehicle. There are also many states that require people to use hands-free. This is why all the confusion. The NSC reports these findings:
- When listening or talking on the phone, the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by 33 percent.
- When talking on a cell phone, drivers can miss seeing 50% of what's around them, such as traffic lights, stop signs and pedestrians.
- Hands-free features in dashboards increase mental distraction.
- Using voice-to-text is more distracting than typing texts while driving
- People who drive and text with their hands or voice keep their eyes on the road less often and have reaction times twice as slow.
According to the the Van Wert State Highway Patrol, last year 17,827 crashes in Ohio had a reported distraction, including 44 fatal crashes. In Ohio, it is illegal for all drivers to text and drive. I have not sent a text by hand while driving but I have found myself reading a text that I have received. I am promising myself to put the cell phone down. We can all make it to our destination without looking at our cell phone, trust me, many of us used to do it all the time. Please promise yourself that you will drive without distractions and make all our roads safer for everyone. Thanks for listening.