Meet Maynor. He’s you’re average 25 year old who lives in Miami and is active on Social Media. He likes to get around town by driving his blue Ford Explorer. Just past midnight, he started texting as he drove south on US 1. His focus on his smartphone made him lose control of his SUV. It hit two palm trees and then bumped the center median before flipping onto a car traveling in the opposite lane.
The other driver escaped with minor injuries. Unfortunately, Maynor lost his life. He became the latest victim of distracted driving. The term, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), refers to “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system.”
Texting is the most worrisome of these behaviors. Looking down at your phone for five seconds at 55 MPH sends you hurtling down the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
The NHTSA says that 3,477 people were killed and about 391,000 were injured in distracted driving incidents in 2015 alone. It estimates that during daylight, about 660,000 drivers are busy with their cellphones. Teens are the worst violators with up to 4.9 percent visibly using hand-held devices while driving at any one time. In Florida during the same year, about 45,000 crashes were due to distracted driving, says News Channel 8, and these accidents killed 214 people.
The problem is serious enough that 46 states, like Florida, prohibit text messaging while driving for all drivers. About 37 states ban all cellphone use by teen drivers, and 14 states forbid all drivers from using handheld phones while behind the wheel.
What You Can Do
Given that the danger is highest for teen drivers, if you’re the parent of one or more, have a heart-to-heart with them about the problem. Get them involved with the local chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions. Not only will it offer them strategies to counter distracted driving, they’ll meet friends who are committed to the same thing.
Such encouragement will help them speak up easier when they notice their friends texting or using their cellphones while driving. Explain to your kids that they have the greatest effect on the behavior of their peers and not their parents. Remind them that the Graduated Driving Laws in Florida may delay their getting a full license or suspend the one that they have.
Of course, your admonitions will fall on deaf ears unless you, your spouse, and other adults in the family avoid distracted driving.
- Turn off your smartphone whenever you get behind the wheel. If you still can’t resist the temptation to keep checking the screen, keep the phone in the trunk and take it out only when you exit the vehicle.l
- Secure any loose objects. You don’t want to be fussing with items moving around the interior while you’re focused on the road.
- Avoid eating, drinking, putting on make-up, shaving, or even yelling at the kids in the back seat while driving. If you have to perform an activity on the road, even a simple one, pull over to a safe area and park. Then finish the activity before starting up again.
- If anyone is sitting in the driver’s seat, have them act as your co-driver by taking care of things that may distract you. Have them deal with the navigation system, adjust the radio and air conditioning, and tell the kids in the back to quiet down.
Despite your efforts, you may still have a crash involving distracted driving. In that case, protect yourself by calling a car accident lawyer who will be in your side.