April 22, 2014

Distracted Driving

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Though everyone knows that texting while driving is dangerous, very few people understand the extent of the danger. According to a 2009 report released by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, on average, texting occupies our eyes for about five seconds. In those five seconds, a car traveling at 55 miles per hour will move approximately the distance of a football field. For those 300 feet, the driver might as well be blindfolded, as his or her eyes are away from the road.

Texting is a textbook example of distracted driving. However, distracted driving is not limited to texting. Whenever an individual shifts their attention away from the road, they are driving while distracted. Distracted driving includes activities such as eating and drinking, putting on makeup, using a map or GPS, watching a video, or changing the radio. All these tasks take your attention off the road – even when just for a brief moment.

According to Distraction.gov, a website dedicated to informing people about the dangers of distracted driving, 3,328 deaths occurred as a result of distracted driving in 2012, while another 421,000 people were injured. You can’t argue with the statistics - they prove that distracted drivers are hazardous to other drivers, pedestrians and themselves.

In response to the growing risks, the Wisconsin State Senate adopted Senate Resolution 8, establishing Thursday, April 24, 2014, as Distracted Driving Awareness Day. By raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, we hope to prevent this behavior and make our roads a safer place.  We want to help Wisconsin’s citizens recognize that distracted driving is a selfish behavior that puts our friends, family, colleagues and fellow citizens in unnecessary danger.

The potential for collateral damage is even greater in urban areas, such as Milwaukee, where there are higher numbers of both drivers and pedestrians. More drivers means more distracted driving, posing risks to our neighborhoods and our loved ones. We are doing what we can in the Wisconsin State Legislature, but true change needs to begin on a community level. Together, we can make Milwaukee safer.

Fortunately, we can all work to prevent distracted driving. By raising awareness and promoting Distracted Driving Awareness Day, we can send the message that distractions will not be tolerated. We can also examine our own behavior, recognizing our faults and remaining vigilant so that we are not driving while distracted. I believe that we have a responsibility to our loved ones and our community to bring attention to this issue. Looking at a text or a phone call may not seem inherently dangerous, but let me tell you: it can wait.

Step up and proactively fight against distracted driving by asking your children, your parents, your friends and family members to focus on the road. Take the pledge today and help end distracted driving: http://www.distraction.gov/content/take-action/take-the-pledge.html

Let’s all work towards zero deaths on Wisconsin roads!

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