Distracted driving can be tragic because the accidents it causes are 100% preventable. Want to know how? This distracted driving ultimate avoidance guide demonstrates what distracted driving is and how law enforcement like the California Highway Patrol is working to stop it.
Too often, when Officer Simone Yarbrough of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) South L.A. office arrives at a crash scene, the driver is already dead. It’s worse when he sees a cell phone lying on the floor, still blinking, with a message half-written out.
“Back in the day, DUI used to be the biggest killer of our drivers on the road,” Yarbrough said. “Well, not any longer. It’s distracted driving.”
What is Distracted Driving?
According to Yarbrough, our cell phones are a huge part of the problem. But, by no means, are they the only part of the problem.
“Anything that takes your mind and your eyes off the road is distracted driving,” he said. “You can be drinking coffee, putting on makeup, shaving, eating food. People drive and read the newspaper at the same time.”
Even helping a child or adjusting a navigation system can be distracted driving, because it moves the driver’s attention away from the road ahead. Yarbrough’s given citations for eating in a car. And he’s even pulled mothers over to educate them about the dangers of breastfeeding while driving.
Parents Teach Your Kids
When teens are involved in distracted driving incidents, Yarbrough extends some of the blame to the parents. Parents should never touch their cell phones while driving because their children will follow their example. They also need to be aware of where their kids are and who they’re with. Many teens who die in crashes are passengers of other teen drivers who were driving while distracted.
Yarbrough applauds parents who set rules before their children get licensed and then don’t let their children break those rules.
Cell Phones Are A Big Part
Cell phone use is one of the biggest causes of distracted driving. That’s partly due to social media. People want to take pictures and post them immediately, whether they’re driving or not.
“The bad part is it’s not just kids doing it,” Yarbrough said. “It’s not just teens doing it. You see adults doing it driving down the street and you’re like, ‘Come on now, if it’s that important to you, pull over and do it.'”
Yarbrough said if someone uses their phone and causes a crash, it’s considered manslaughter or worse. It’s expensive, too. The first-time fine for using a cell phone while driving is $200. It goes up from there.
Know the Numbers
Every year, an average of 20,000 drivers in California are involved in crashes due to distracted driving. The United States Department of Transportation listed 2,841 deaths caused by distracted driving in 2018. Of those deaths, 605 were passengers, 400 were pedestrians, and 77 were bicyclists.
“If you see something and you recognize something, it takes .75 seconds to just see it and recognize it, another .75 seconds to react,” Yarbrough said. “That’s already a second and a half, and you haven’t done anything yet. You’ve put your foot on the brake, and it’s almost a whole football field, if you’re traveling at 55 miles an hour, to come to a stop. So whatever stops in front of you at that kind of speed, you’re probably going to hit it.”
Ending Distracted Driving
The CHP works hard on education and prevention wherever it can. This includes using a yearlong Adult Distracted Driving grant recently provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The grant money provides for both in-person and virtual training sessions on distracted driving. The CHP plans to conduct several distracted driving enforcement operations, too, and it’s partnered with Impact Teen Drivers to offer distracted driving training to teens during the pandemic.
These most recent efforts are backed up by several safety manuals that the CHP already had on hand. Two of them are specifically for teen drivers. Officers hope that these efforts inspire drivers to pay attention while driving and to stay safe on the roads.
“It’s stuff that can be prevented,” Yarbrough said.