By LT. KIP SHUTER
Warsaw Police Department
Warsaw Traffic Commission
Distracted driving – what does that term mean to you? Most of our minds would go to cell phones and texting while driving, but distracted driving goes far beyond the infamous cell phone.
Distracted driving means anything that takes your thoughts and actions away from the operation of the motor vehicle you are operating.
Here are some classic examples that I’ve seen in our Warsaw community that can be termed as distracted driving: eating while driving, changing the radio station, fumbling with the GPS navigation system, leaning over to pick up an article/item, fussy children, putting on make-up, taking off your jacket, reading the newspaper, brushing/combing your hair, searching for something in the back seat, those pesky bugs and bees, and yes, even talking on the cell phone.
Each of those activities, and many more, may take your attention away from your primary task at hand – driving.
Did you know that last year the Indiana legislature made it illegal to type, transmit, or read a text message or an electronic mail message while your vehicle is in motion? The Indiana legislature took this action because in 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving.
Of those people killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18 percent of fatalities in distraction-related crashes).
Of those injured in distracted-driving-related crashes, 24,000 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (5 percent of injured people in distraction-related crashes).
There are exceptions to the Indiana law if the device is being used in conjunction with hands free or voice operated technology. The only other exception is if you need to call 911 to report a bona fide emergency.
The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group. Sixteen percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. But, of those drivers involved in fatal crashes who were reportedly distracted, the 30- to 39-year-olds had the highest proportion of cell phone involvement.
I know we live in a society of instant communication and we are always on the go. But, here’s the bottom line – if while driving you do anything (and I mean anything!) to take your thoughts away from scanning the road/area ahead of you – don’t do it. If you have to take your hands off the steering wheel – don’t do it. Pull off the road and stop! Then take care of your business while not jeopardizing yourself and those around you.