Distracted driving is Killing Us by Michelle Avola-Brown, E.D. Naples Pathways Coalition

I wish the title were an exaggeration. According to a FocusDriven® Nationwide Insurance study, up to 80 percent of all crashes involve some form of driver distraction. The United States Department of Transportation notes that cell phones are involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year, and these crashes cause at least half a million injuries and take 6,000 lives. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study reported texting while driving is up to six times more likely to cause an auto crash than drinking and driving.

Distracted driving has become a deadly epidemic, and we all need to take action to stop it.

Although we frequently hear and see “don’t text and drive” messaging, this behavior is increasing. Even though texting while driving is now a primary offense, meaning you can be
ticketed solely for texting with no other noted infraction, drivers don’t seem to care.

A car or SUV can range from 3,000 to 8,000 pounds. It’s been demonstrated that taking our eyes off the road for only five seconds (the average amount of time it takes to read or send a
short text) while driving at 55 mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with our eyes closed. And still, people do this every day.

What will it take to get everyone to put down their phones and drive? Texting is one of many distractions with our phones. Drivers report checking social media, surfing the web, typing addresses into navigation apps, playing games, and even taking selfies or videos while they drive! Whether using a hands-free device or not, merely talking on the phone shifts our focus from the road more than talking to a passenger. How many of us have missed a turn or an exit because we were talking on the phone?

But distracted driving is about more than just electronic diversions. Anything we do behind the wheel besides focusing on the road undermines safe driving, including changing the radio station, personal grooming, disciplining kids, or sharing the front seat with unruly pets. Did you know eating and drinking rank just as highly in terms of dangerous activities behind the wheel as texting? Drive-Safely.net lists coffee as the most hazardous food or beverage to consume while driving, and we don’t even have to drink it. A pothole can send our coffee flying, and if it doesn’t burn us, it makes a mess of our clothes and vehicle, which we have a hard time ignoring.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. To mark the occasion, Naples Pathways Coalition is launching a multi-agency effort with the help of different branches of local government,
community organizations, health organizations, and advertising agencies urging people to stop distracted driving, biking, and walking. We are asking every member of our community to join us in this vital campaign.

Taking our eyes off the road can lead to a fender bender or a fatal rollover crash. And what if we hit a pedestrian or cyclist? Without the safeguard of seat belts, airbags, or four-thousand pounds of steel around them, vulnerable road users like this have absolutely no protection. Veering out of our lane for just a few seconds can end the life of someone’s son or daughter, mom or dad. Is sending a text, checking Instagram, or looking up a phone number while driving
worth killing someone?

Our convenience, boredom, or habit of multi-tasking is never worth the risk of taking a life. When we’re behind the wheel, our one job is driving. Speak up if you’re in the car with someone who’s distracted. Pledge to put away distractions when you drive, bike, or walk.

It truly is a matter of life and death.
We look forward to state and federal funding coming to Collier County in the coming years. Collier residents and visitors must frequently ask our County Commissioners to diligently promote the construction of the Paradise Coast Trail and support its funding. For their contact information, visit https://bit.ly/CollierBCC.

To further our efforts to fast-track the Paradise Coast Trail, we are fundraising and looking for champions who also see the importance of this trail.

Michelle Avola-Brown

For more information and to partner with us, please visit www.NaplesPathways.org or contact Michelle@NaplesPathways.org.

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