The Pleasanton Express is launching a Driving Safety series beginning today through the New Year. This series will focus primarily on the three most deadly types of driving – distracted, drowsy and impaired. The upcoming seasonal celebrations and holidays are the deadliest times of the year for car fatalities nationwide. Specifically, those times are Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Super Bowl and New Years.
We kick off this series during Teen Driver Safety Week, October 14-20 with the focus on teen texting and driving. Car crashes are the number one killer of teens according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Texting and driving falls under a category of safety risks called distracted driving. Distracted driving covers any non-driving act that keeps drivers from safely operating their vehicles including putting on make-up, eating, changing the radio station, etc.
Drivers of all ages engage in potentiallydistracting secondary tasks during more than half of the time spent driving. In fact, driver inattention is a factor in more than 1 million crashes in North America annually, resulting in serious injuries, deaths and an economic impact reaching nearly $40 billion per year.
We hope this series will help to educate readers about these deadly driving dangers that are highly preventable and motivate individuals to make some fairly simple changes that will perhaps save their life or the lives of others.
I know that my state of mind about texting has drastically changed from doing the research for this story. A study by the NHSTA showed that texting requires three of the primary degrees of attention required to drive safely – visual, manual and cognitive. So, basically if you are sending a perfect text with no typos to the right person you just did it while failing to drive your car safely! You have essentially created the perfect storm for fatal driving. This fact hit me harder than any other statistic that I read because I realized I am playing Russian roulette when I text and drive. It is not a matter of if, but when I will cause an accident if I do not stop texting and driving.
According to the National Safety Council, driving and using a cell phone or hand held device has the same effect as the legal blood alcohol limit of .08 percent. So, one can only imagine what type of impairment driving and texting has on an individual. I am guessing a margarita topped off with a shot of vodka on an empty stomach.
When I read the fact about texting and driving being equivalent to Texas’ law for earning a DUI, it made me think hard about my texting habits. I would never drive down the road while drinking an alcoholic beverage. It also made me rethink my fellow traveler’s texting and driving habits. I would be mortified if I looked over and saw a driver guzzling a beer. I would be horrified if I saw a parent driving down the road drinking while they had children in the car.
But, if the statistics are right parents are not far behind their teens in their texting and driving behaviors. As parents, we all know that our children mimic our behaviors particularly our bad ones. Adults just like teens have false impressions of our texting/driving capabilities . It is 100% wrong when our children text and drive, but not always so very wrong when we choose to do it. The rationales are many. We are more experienced drivers. The reasons for our texting are vital and critical for work, scheduling appointments and the everyday juggling of both career and family.
I for one am going “cold turkey on texting and driving”. I hope this series of articles will persuade some of you to do the same. We will be providing lots of practical and helpful tips and tools throughout this series in our print and web editions. We will provide a list of APPS, software and free easy to do actions that can be immediately put into practice. I will also be presenting some great ideas to start a non-confrontational family discussion about texting and driving. In my house that talk begins with me saying I am sorry for not setting a good example on texting and driving. I was wrong and I am going to make it right starting now.
In conjunction with this story, The Pleasanton Express will be running a website poll on texting behavior, October 16-October 22. Please take this poll and be honest. It is anonymous and will give us a snapshot of Atascosa County’s distracted driving behaviors. We have contacted Atascosa high schools asking them to have students take the same poll also anonymously.
We will publish the results of those polls in the October 24 issue and continue the distracted driving portion of our Driving Safety series. To take the poll, please go to pleasantonexpress.com which can be found in the top right hand side of the site. The poll reads:
When driving how often do you text? (Please select only one.)