Today’s drivers seem to have a compulsion to “stay connected” while they drive their vehicles. Any conversation with people about traffic issues always seems to include discussion about their disbelief at how many drivers seem to be too busy on their phones to drive safely. We see drivers running red lights or continuing to sit motionless through a green light because they were too busy texting. Other times, especially on main routes and interstates, we see drivers who are unaware that they are changing lanes in front of another vehicle. Often times, they will even strike a vehicle without realizing they were not in their lane.
Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it combines three different types of distraction: visual, manual and cognitive. It involves taking your eyes off of the roadway, your hands off of the steering wheel and your mind off of the task of driving.
According to a 2013 Report by the National Safety Council, more than 1.6 million distracted driving crashes were reported nationwide. In that same year, ten percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all motor vehicle traffic crashes were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
Almost every state, including West Virginia, has laws prohibiting texting while driving. Even if there isn’t a law, it’s still not a smart thing to do. We encourage parents to have discussions with their teenage drivers and get them to commit to a family pledge to not text and drive. Parents should also set a positive example by putting your cell phone away while driving.
Several times a year, the Huntington Highway Safety Office provides funding for special traffic enforcement campaigns to discourage use of cell phone and texting while driving.