Ashland Police Department: Distracted driving kills
Every day in this county, an average of nine people die in traffic crashes where the proximate cause was driver distraction, usually a distraction from technology. That’s nine families per day who will never again celebrate their loved one’s birthday, enjoy Christmas morning together or simply receive a daily hug. It’s easy to talk about this epidemic from a statistical perspective. It’s clean, it’s sterile, and it’s clinical. But the fact of the matter is that distracted driving, whether in the form of a text message, tuning the radio (yes I am that old), applying make-up or fussing at the kids is the direct cause of 3,300 fatal traffic crashes each year and 420,000 crashes (average of 1,100 each day) where someone is injured. According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, this dynamic is even more pronounced when we look at our most vulnerable drivers that don’t yet have the experience behind the wheel even when all their senses are engaged. Twenty one percent of all fatal crashes involving drivers between the ages of 15-19 are directly related to distraction from electronic devices. Many of us are appalled when we see someone looking in their mirror applying make-up, or driving down the interstate with a book open on the steering wheel. But somehow, distractions from technology do not get the same bad rap from folks. Many will argue that we are “over communicated.” I for one live with a cell phone on my hip or on my nightstand 24-hours per day. I don’t even think that my phone have ever been off for more than a few minutes, and that is only to reboot after a new software update has been installed. Why do we have to answer the phone right then and there? Why do we have to respond to that text immediately? Because we as a society have set those expectations that we are always close to our phone and available. I have set those for myself and I pride myself on being available to my staff, my counterparts, the citizens I serve and to my family. But are we too accessible? This must change. Not just for the sake of our highways, but for all of our sakes and mental well being. If I could get back all the time I have spent away from my wife and kids, answering an email after hours that could easily wait until the next morning, I would have been a much better father and husband. The same holds true for texts on the road. According to researchers at VA Tech, the average text at 55 mph takes our eyes off the road for the length of a football field! Yes a football field! We would never even think about driving the length of a football field with our eyes closed. That is just crazy. But folks do it every day, and unfortunately, at least nine times a day, someone pays the ultimate price for that momentary convenience.