Buckle up and put that phone down

April is Distracted Driving Awareness month.  Considering the car calamities that occur regularly on the road, such a proclamation should be year-round.

I bet if you asked a bunch of people in a room to raise their hands if they knew of anyone who was involved in some kind of accident due to a distracted driver, at least one hand would go up.

One out of every eight drivers uses a phone while behind the wheel as reported by the California Office of Traffic Safety in 2016.   Such distractions affect 80 percent of car accidents.

 According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 3,500 died (16 percent of all fatal crashes) and 400,000 were injured in 2015 due to distracted drivers.

The AAA Foundation discovered that drivers ages 16-24, who use their phones one-fourth of the time while on the road, have the highest incidents of deadly accidents due to inattention.  In fact, six out of every 10 accidents involving teens is due to driver distraction.

Both my wife and I have been hit by drivers using phones, luckily minor collisions.

In one 24-hour period I observed at four-way stop intersections three drivers who were looking down at their laps or holding their phones near their heads barely stopping and rolling through the stop sign to the amazement of other drivers.

Just last week a young man was driving behind me on Kenneth Road.  Since I always check the driver’s face in my rearview mirror, I saw he was looking down more than half of the time.  The car ahead of me inched up to turn left so I couldn’t proceed.  But the kid behind me sensing movement started accelerating, then had to slam on his brakes to avoid rear-ending me.

I noticed a shocked look on his face.  So, I thought, “Good, now he knows not to use his phone while driving.”  Wrong.   He continued behind me for several blocks, constantly glancing down at his lap.  If a near-miss did not alter his behavior, what would?

What is scary about those who refuse to put their phones down while driving is that it doesn’t matter how defensively one drives, there is no protection against a person willfully breaking the law.   Many innocent people have lost their lives due to these selfish, self-absorbed menaces.

Cars should have sensors that prevent the car from operating if a driver is using a phone in any way, similar to navigation systems which do not work while the car is running.

It’s not just cell phone use that creates distracted drivers.  Everything from talking to eating to applying make-up can make a difference between a near-miss and a casualty.

And drivers with earbuds in their ears:  can they hear sirens or screams?

Peculiar that people have no problem texting while driving, but for some reason can’t use their blinkers, an action that would require less effort.

Instead of autonomous cars there should be signals that automatically go on if a driver turns his wheel a certain number of degrees in either direction.  That would also save automakers money since there would no longer be a need for the turn signal lever on steering wheel columns.

It seems that the only way a driver obeys the law is if an officer is spotted nearby.  That logic of “not to get caught” creates dangerous people on our highway who evidently count on others to obey the law.

Some neighbors have posted lawn signs that read, “drive like your kids live here.”  They should say “drive like your kids are in the other car.”

 

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