Distracted driving — Not worth the risk

A toy car crashing into a cell phone

It was a bright summer day with nice clear roads when I left work on a Tuesday afternoon. As usual, I went straight to the daycare center to pick up my two kids. I glanced in the rearview mirror as I waited to turn left into the parking lot and in a split second I knew it—the giant SUV barreling down on me didn't see me and wasn't going to stop.

She slammed into me at about 55 miles per hour. When the car in back of her hit her, it pushed her vehicle back into my van for a second collision. I managed to drive my mangled van into the parking lot and out of oncoming traffic, while the daycare center director called 911.

The accident was witnessed by a nurse, who pulled over to help. She checked on me first and when I tearfully told her that my neck and head hurt, she instructed me to stay perfectly still while she checked on the other driver. Then she came back and held my head stationary until the firemen and paramedics extracted me from my van, strapped me to a board and rushed me to the hospital. While we were waiting for emergency responders, she told me that the young people in the SUV were okay, and that the driver had admitted that she hadn't seen me because she was texting.

Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that's enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.

I was lucky in so many ways that day—I wasn't seriously hurt, and thankfully the accident happened before my kids were in the van with me. I also like to think that the driver who hit me will probably never text again while she's driving. Maybe she learned a lesson and because of that, a more serious accident will be averted in the future.

This story has a happy ending because the most serious consequence was that my van was totaled. But statistics tell us that things could have been much worse. Here are some scary facts from the website www.distraction.gov, which is the official U.S. government website for distracted driving:

  • Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that's enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.
  • At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.
  • Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.

And here's what you can do right now.

  • Go to www.distraction.gov and take the pledge to end distracted driving. When you're on the road, make a commitment to stay focused on the road. Turn your phone off and put it away.
  • Set an example for your kids. Maybe they're too young to drive now, but your behavior sets an example for them every day. Let them see you making safe decisions behind the wheel.
  • If you're riding with a driver who is distracted by an electronic device, ask them to help keep you and everyone else on the road safe by putting it away.
  • There are apps available that prevent texting while driving. Consider installing them on your phones and your kids' phones.

Please—when you're driving, stay focused on the road. When it comes to keeping yourself and your family safe, everything else can wait. To take the pledge to end distracted driving, visit http://www.distraction.gov.



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