By Linda Kor
How dangerous is it to text while driving? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it’s deadly. The average driver takes his eyes off the road 4.6 seconds to text, which is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.
In a presentation hosted by Cellular One and presented by the Joseph City Fire District and the Department of Public Safety, junior high and high school students learned some hard facts about one of their favorite pastimes.
Officer Jarrod Lampsa explained to the students gathered at Joseph City Junior/Senior High School last Friday that being distracted while driving is a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways. According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2010 alone. In that same year it was reported that distracted drivers caused 18 percent of vehicle involved-injury accidents.
“It’s something most all of us are guilty of at some time and the results are something I see all too often,” stated Lampsa, referring to the accidents he responds to as part of his job as a highway patrol officer. He referenced another NHTSA statistic that showed of the 15 fatality accidents that occur on a daily basis nationwide, 11 of those involve teenagers. Statistics show that young drivers, ages 15 to 20, are especially vulnerable to death and injury on roadways, with traffic crashes as the leading cause of death for teenagers in America. Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.
Jeff Dixon with the JCFD added that this generation has the greatest number of distractions. When asked what some of those might be, a call out of “girls” received laughter, but the reality is that distractions facing this generation have more to do with technology than beauty.
“Today its Mp3 players, cell phones, navigation systems, things that take our eyes off the road for longer than we realize. If someone is texting you, it can wait. Turn off your phones while you drive, it can wait until you’re off the road,” said Dixon.
While law enforcement and emergency personnel can educate young drivers on the dangers of distracted driving, there are currently no laws in Arizona prohibiting texting or the use of a cell phone while driving, except for school bus drivers. In a 3-1 vote last Wednesday, members of the Arizona Senate Committee on Public Safety approved a measure to prohibit cell phone use by anyone younger than 18 with a learner’s permit or for the first six months of driving. That would cover not just texting, but chatting as well. The legislation also needs approval from the Transportation Committee before going to the full Senate.
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By Linda Kor