It only takes a split second to change lives forever. In an instant, the action of (or lack of action by) a distracted driver can produce catastophic, tragic results. That’s only one of the reasons “Drive Aware Oklahoma Week” is so important.
During news conferences Monday in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, members of the various volunteer organizations concerned about traffic safety, unified as Drive Aware Oklahoma, spoke out about what has become one of the most dangerous situations in our state, in our country: distracted driving.
They noted that the number of accident injuries and traffic fatalities related to distracted driving have increased steadily the past several years while attempts to make laws to stop them have been defeated.
Drive Aware Oklahoma members hope that, through making the public more aware of the risks and results of distracted driving, they can spur people to act, such as working with lawmakers to enact new laws and promoting efforts to educate drivers young and old.
It’s badly needed. Drive anywhere and you’ll encounter motorists driving distracted in one or more ways. It may be talking on a cellphone, texting, grooming, looking at maps or other reading materials, adjusting a radio or other entertainment, talking with others in the vehicle, or eating or drinking, to name a few.
The numbers aren’t good. Drive Aware Oklahoma notes that research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others found distracted driving in fatal crashes rose from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009. It wasn’t unexpected that cell phone use was the major distraction in crashes, with nearly 1,000 people killed and other 24,000 injured nationwide.
A recent Virginia Tech study concluded that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash than non-texting drivers.
Distracted driving is particularly dangerous to young drivers, coming in as the number one killer of American teenagers.
Drive Aware Oklahoma Week has a direct tie-in with “Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks,” a texting and driving prevention campaign by the Ad Council, the office of the State Attorneys General and NHTSA.
The awareness group encourages all Oklahoma drivers to get off their cell phones while behind the wheel. If the call is so important that you need to use the phone, group members say, pull off the road and stop first.
The short time it takes to do that just might be the time that saves your life and/or those of others.
We all need to aware of that.