Road deaths in just three months took 9,600 U.S. lives. In this National Teen Driver Safety Week it’s a good time to avoid driving with digital distractions such as texting – and to watch out for others who do.
An estimate released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that traffic fatalities were up 9.5 percent in the second quarter of this year over the same period last year. Per vehicle-mile traveled, the increase was 6.5 percent.
A total of 9,600 people died on our country’s roads in April, May and June, the agency estimates.
“It is too soon,” the NHTSA warns, to identify causes. But we can always look for ways to make our roads safer. After all, 35,092 people died on the roads in 2015, and America’s drivers are on track to kill even more people this year.
Among the activities that clearly make driving more dangerous is texting. Inputting text on a smartphone’s touch screen requires taking eyes and thoughts off the road for a prolonged period. Anything done on a touchscreen is distracting, but texting is especially so.
Yet in 2014, according to the NHTSA, 2.2 percent of drivers who were observed stopped at signs or lights in passenger cars without government or commercial markings were manipulating handheld devices. That’s better, of course, than using them while your car is moving. But one has to wonder how many of these drivers put their foot on the gas without taking their hand off their phone.
The CEO of the National Safety Council, a nonprofit group, said 46 states ban texting while driving. But if banning a dangerous driving behavior were enough to eliminate it, drunken driving would have been solved long ago.
Reducing texting while driving poses a challenge for lawmakers, law enforcement and innovators — and not every idea for reducing it would be worth pursuing. Perfect safety is impossible, and attempts to achieve it could take away too much freedom and undermine common sense. People may need to use their GPS apps when they’re stopped at lights; a law-enforcement officer may not be able to tell at a distance whether you’re checking your route or your texts.
The best solution is cultural, not legal: Use sense and take care. Choose the phone or the wheel. You cannot have both. Teach that to your children.
Before you touch the gas, put down your phone. It could save your life. Or the life of a loved one. Or the life of that pedestrian you didn’t see.
— PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE