The holiday season seems to come around faster every year. Folks get busy with kids and work, outside activities and friends. We drive to family gatherings, we hustle to school games, and we dodge storms. We engage in life, such as it is for many of us today.
And all too often, our lives are intertwined with electronic devices – cellular phones that tweet, twerk, buzz and grab our attention no matter what we are supposed to be doing. Reacting to these devices appears to be one of the most addictive actions to which humans have ever been exposed.
And far too often, we put ourselves and others at risk by using such instruments of distraction while driving our motor vehicles.
Don’t. Just say no. Put the cell phone in the glove box or the back seat, or turn it off. Accidents that happen when we are distracted by these attention-grabbing devices are killing our friends, our neighbors, even our own family members.
In 2015, traffic deaths in the United States climbed 7.5 percent over the previous year after a steady 20-year decline. Our cars are safer than ever. Tires are better. Many roads have been improved with curves eased and blind corners removed. Yet, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic deaths were up another 10 percent through the first six months of 2016. Researchers say that drug and alcohol impairment contributed, as did improper speed, but driver distraction is rapidly eclipsing other factors in the sudden rise of traffic deaths in our country.
Low fuel prices, down 35 percent since 2014, have led to more of us driving more miles: over 1.6 trillion miles in the first six months of 2016. But that news is vastly eclipsed by the increase in driving deaths and injuries.
Cell phone use, texting and access to distracting apps on dashboard screens have increased sharply in the past few years despite the integration of “hands-free” operations for “safer” driving. The results illustrate that the opposite is true. Too many drivers are incapable of properly operating a 2-3-ton vehicle and talking or texting on a cellular device. Multitaskers are good at home and at work, but the evidence suggests that too many people’s brains are not capable of multitasking when behind the wheel. We all have seen errant drivers and been upset that they may be unnecessarily risking our safety. And then we justify our own similar behavior later.
Give your family and your friends a great gift this season. Don’t be a statistic. Don’t create a statistic for some other family. Put the phone away. Drive safely. Drive smartly. Anything on your phone can wait.