April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. I always feel a little funny about the designation of certain months, because we need to be careful every minute of every day of every month of every year when we take the wheel. Obviously, the intent is to highlight the activity especially in this month. Well to do that, the Michigan State Police just completed and released the results of a recently administered 600-person telephone survey on distracted driving. The results are startling.
More than half of Michigan drivers say they use cell phones when driving, and eight percent say they text behind the wheel, according to survey results released by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP). What is incredible about these results is that in the same survey, more than 80 percent of Michigan motorists believe that drivers talking on cell phones are more likely to be involved in a crash and nearly 96 percent of those polled believed they were more likely to be involved in a crash while texting or e-mailing – and yet we continue to do so. Unfortunately, the data tells them that they are right!
According to Michigan crash data, nearly 4,000 crashes in 2010 listed the driver condition as distracted. Cell phone use was noted in 881 crashes.
So, are the messages working? We know it is more dangerous to talk on the phone and text while driving, so people have been educated. We just don’t seem to care. Mike Prince, Director of OHSP, said, "It appears drivers are aware of the dangers of being distracted by cell phones and texting, but the ability and pressure to be constantly connected and available seem to trump traffic safety as motorists continue to talk and text while driving."
I guess most of us just don’t believe it can happen to us. I confess to being one who used to do a lot of talking and texting in the car – thought of it as an office on wheels. I haven’t in a long time – and find I enjoy getting away from the ball and chain of the phone for even that short period of time. You should try it – not only is it good for you to get away for a while, but it can save your life as well.
The Michigan State Police has posted a 30-second public service video on their Web site. I will warn you it is a bit graphic, but extremely realistic.
Please be smart and careful and look out for me – I will be looking out for you.
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