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Distracted driving is socially unacceptable and dangerous

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

While a wide majority of drivers see distracted driving behavior as risky, that did not stop more than 41.3 percent from admitting they had read texts or emails on their phone at least once in the past 30 days, while 32.1 percent said they had typed on their device while driving, according to new data from AAA.

Distracted driving is an epidemic in the U.S., where people’s phones and other electronic devices have become a sort of addiction.

That addiction seeps into all parts of our lives, and in this case, is dangerous and potentially fatal.

Newly-released results of the annual AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index show motorists see texting or emailing on a cell phone while driving to be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated, yet thousands of people still drive while distracted by their phones.

The index is based on a sample of 2,582 U.S. licensed drivers ages 16 and older who have reported having driven at least once in the past 30 days, weighted to reflect the U.S. population.

The study also found less than half of the respondents thought drivers exhibiting risky use of a cell phone behind the wheel were likely to be caught by the police. A greater percentage, nearly 68 percent, believed intoxicated drivers were likely to be caught.

A majority of drivers support laws against distracted driving, with nearly 75 percent supporting laws against holding and talking on a cellphone and about 88 percent supporting laws against reading, typing or sending a text or email while driving.

About 6 percent of respondents believe texting or emailing on a cellphone while driving is socially acceptable, according to the study. Driving while intoxicated was deemed the least socially-approved behavior with only 1.8 percent believing it to be socially acceptable.

Any type of behavior that takes the driver’s attention from the road and the task of driving is dangerous and socially-unacceptable.

Distracted driving puts the driver, their passengers and anyone else on the road in danger.

Answering texts and emails might seem like a small matter, but doing it behind the wheel could have huge consequences.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, each day in the U.S., approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

“Texting while driving is especially dangerous…,” according to the CDC. “When you send or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for about five seconds, long enough to cover the length of a football field while driving at 55 mph.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports about 14 percent of all distracted driving incidents involve cell phone use — and sometimes that results in fatalities. In 2016, there were 444 fatal crashes reported to have involved cell phone use as a distraction.

AAA runs a year-long initiative to promote awareness about texting and driving: “Don’t Drive Intoxicated — Don’t Drive Intexticated.”

Through the initiative, AAA offers these tips for driving safely:

• Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.

• Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.

• Pull over. If you have to call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.

• Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.

• Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver is texting. Don’t be a distraction.  Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.

• Everyone should prevent being “intexticated.” Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.