The National Safety Council has designated April “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.” Texting and driving has become one of the biggest distractions to drivers on Kansas City roads, and a growing number of car accidents are being caused by it. The NSC says it’s time to Take Back Your Drive.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association previously estimated distraction to be a factor in only about 14 percent of all teen driver crashes. But a March 2015 study by researchers with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that distracted driving is a factor in almost six out of 10 moderate to severe car accidents involving teenage drivers. That’s four times the rate cited in many previous estimates. The study examined in-car videos that showed what teen drivers were doing in the seconds before a wreck, and the results reinforced suspicions of Kansas City area traffic safety officials who believe distracted-driving incidents involving teens is greatly underreported. Researchers studied almost 1,700 videos, and reported that distraction figured into 58 percent of the car accidents observed. According to the researchers, the videos will make you cringe as you watch young people stare at cellphones or talk with friends while their cars drift back and forth between lanes, dart off the road or come up suddenly on vehicles ahead of them.
Missouri’s Stance on Texting & Driving
Currently, Missouri has a ban on texting and driving only for novice drivers (Missouri defines “novice driver” as a driver age 21 and under). If you get caught texting and driving in Missouri and you’re under the age of 22, you could receive a fine, reports Arrive Alive. Legislation in Missouri is pending that would extend the ban on texting and driving to drivers of all ages. Missouri has multiple campaigns dedicated to safe driving including Arrive Alive, sponsored by the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.
Kansas’ Stance on Texting & Driving
Between 2009 and 2014, an average of 92 died each year in Kansas due to distracted driving, according to KDOT statistics. That means distracted driving contributed to nearly one in four fatalities. As a result, Kansas state law now prohibits drivers from using a cellphone to text or send emails. A proposed Kansas bill also would prohibit drivers from talking on a cellphone but still allow use of a hands-free device, but the bill’s chances appear slim.
Texting and Car Accidents – Fast Facts
In 2012, more than 420,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. The US Department of Transportation recently noted that the use of cell phones while driving plays a role in 1.6 million auto crashes each year, causing 500,000 injuries and 6,000 deaths.
In a recent study released by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute it was found that truck drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in trucking accidents when using cell phones for texting. The study also showed that the risk was considerably higher for those dialing or texting than it was for those simply speaking on their cell phones. Driving at only 55mph, you can cover the distance of a football field in the time it takes to glance at your phone for under 5 seconds. And we all know the devastation that can occur in “the blink of an eye,” let alone in a full “5-mississippi.”
If texting and driving has become a habit, it could take some time to get used to just focusing on the task of driving. While behind the wheel, you’ll need to make a conscious choice to not pick up your phone. You can turn your phone off and stow it in a place that can’t be reached, or you can rely on self-control. Ask your friends and family to keep you accountable as well. Share your no-phone pledge with them and ask them to check-in on you every week.
There are numerous third-party Apps available for use by parents and adults, including ones that block texting while driving (Cellcontrol, Drive Safe Mode, Live2Txt), and others that encourage you to be an all-around safer driver (SafeDrive, Drivemode, Drivesafe.ly) Some cellphone companies are also trying to do their part to help, including the AT&T DriveMode app for iPhone and the Sprint Drive First app for Android devices.
Taking a stand to drive distraction-free is well worth it. Not only will you help make the roads a safer place for everyone, you just might save your own life.
 “Distracted Driving – Key Facts and Statistics.” Distraction.gov. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/facts-and-statistics.html.