You may have noticed how frequently I post information about “the distracted driver” on the Lehigh Agency Facebook page. Why? It is such an important topic! Just think about it. How often are you focused 100% on the task of driving when you are behind the wheel? 100% focused on the road in front of you and your responsibilities as a driver – without a single thought about the tasks that lie ahead in your day, flipping through radio stations, programming a navigation device, talking to someone else in the vehicle or on the phone…texting? We probably all have to admit to being less than 100% focused on driving at all times. While there are many ways we can be distracted while driving, I thought I would focus this blog on the distraction of the handheld electronic device.
If you visit the Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving (http://www.distraction.gov/index.html), you will see a list of headlines scrolling up along the bottom of the page under the heading “Distracted Driving News.” Take a minute to read those headlines. The vast majority cite cell phone use (particularly texting) as the cause of the accidents, while a good portion of the rest discuss community and legal action to ban cell phone use and texting while driving. The prominence of the electronic handheld device in these headlines is nothing to be taken lightly.
Although a 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed the percentage of drivers observed to be visibly manipulating handheld electronic devices had decreased 0.4 percent from 2008, the same study also indicated an increased use in electronic devices while driving. Perhaps this data suggests an increased use of hands-free electronic devices. However, the headlines scrolling along the www.distraction.gov homepage clearly indicate the use of electronic devices – handheld or hands-free – continue to pose a significant distraction to drivers.
In an effort to reduce the potential dangers of this particular driver distraction, many states have passed legislation to ban the use of handheld electronic devices while driving. In 2010 alone, 12 states enacted laws to ban text messaging while driving. A complete listing of the current state laws for distracted driving can be found at http://www.distraction.gov/state-laws/. To date, Pennsylvania has no distracted driver bans. So, it is up to us – as responsible drivers – to assume the responsibility of reducing the distraction of the handheld electronic device ourselves.
In a world where technology is available right at our fingertips all the time, we need to make a conscious effort to remember there is still an appropriate time and place for everything. While we are driving, our hands should be on the wheel and our eyes on the road – not on our phones. Nothing is so important that it can’t wait until we are in safe places to dial or text. I remind my children, husband, and friends of that fact all the time…and I will continue to remind myself, too!