Approximately 23% of all vehicle collisions are caused by distracted driving. We live in a fast-paced, high-tech world and we have the capability to be connected to almost anyone or anything simply by picking up our cell phones. Many of us have come to think of driving time as “wasted” if we’re not doing something in addition to driving! But driving while distracted can cause far more harm than good, even if you’re not the person in the driver’s seat.
There are different “players” in the distracted driving issue:
Each of these players can significantly impact the level of safety that is shared between everyone who is on or near the road. To increase the likelihood of everyone getting to where they need to be safely, consider the role you play.
If you’re driving, keep in mind that your vehicle can quickly become a lethal weapon. Your hands should be on the steering wheel, your eyes should be on the road and on traffic conditions around you, and even your ears should be available to hear what’s happening around you (*Did you know that as of 01/01/16 it is against the law to drive or ride a bicycle while wearing both earbuds? You need to leave at least one ear open). If your cell phone is too big of a temptation, turn it off while you’re driving, or put it in the trunk. If you eliminate the ability to reach for your phone while driving, you’ll have no other option than to ignore those incoming calls, texts, snaps, tweets, etc. There are also apps you can download onto your smartphone that will reply to messages for you (check out AT&T’s “Drive Mode” app). Another option could be designating a “texter”—someone who can be trusted enough to text for you while you drive. If none of those sound good though, you can always find a safe, legal place to pull over, put your vehicle in park, and take care of your digital correspondence.
If you’re the “other texter,” this means you are the person tempting the driver to pick up their phone while driving. Now obviously we can’t always know when the people we communicate with are driving, but if you are aware that someone is on the road, don’t be the reason they are distracted.
If you’re the passenger in a vehicle being driven by a distracted driver, you have every right to speak up and ask them to put the distraction away. You can offer to take care of their phone while they drive, encourage them to pull over somewhere safe, or, if you’re licensed and insured, you can offer to drive instead. Please do not sit quietly and hope they don’t crash. Speak up! It’s your life too.
When you’re a bystander in a distracted driving situation, you have little to no control over the situation. This is where personal safety strategies come into play. Since you, as a pedestrian, cyclist or other motorist cannot encourage the distracted driver to pay attention to the road, prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario. Pedestrians: please use cross walks and be alert to your surroundings. Cyclists: please wear a properly-fitted helmet, use lights and/or reflectors, and obey traffic laws. If you’re another motorist it can be almost impossible to prepare for someone else’s error, but do your best to be alert and focused. Make sure you’re doing your part to keep our roadways safe. Distracted driving is against the law and can result in traffic citations, but it’s also incredibly dangerous and can result in loss of life. Obey the laws and stay alive.