And it’s a problem that hit home when five Grand Haven High School teens ended up in the hospital after a serious crash on I-96 in March.
Michigan State Police determined that a contributing factor to the crash was distracted driving. The driver had just taken a cell phone call, put the phone down, and when she looked up, swerved to avoid a car in the lane ahead of her. The Honda CR-V rolled, throwing three teens onto the ground outside and pinning a forth inside the vehicle. It’s truly a miracle all five girls survived.
Texting while driving is illegal in Michigan, but talking on one’s cell phone while driving is not illegal. Distracted driving is also not illegal. But it’s obvious that all distractions endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety.
This has been the case for a long time. Since the time that radios were installed in vehicles, drivers have taken their eyes off the road and focused their attention of finding their favorite station. Fast-food restaurants provide a perfect opportunity for one to navigate with their knee as they indulge in their favorite sandwich. The various electronic devices that have become such a necessary part of our lives only increase the level of distraction and danger.
Police officers can’t catch every driving texter. And they don’t have the power to stop others for being distracted by a hamburger or iPod. Perhaps the best way to stem distracted driving is to educate people about the danger it poses.
Some key facts and statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that in 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, and an estimated 448,000 suffered injuries.
Teen drivers, especially, are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash when distraction is reported.
In 2009, 16 percent of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted; 40 percent of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger.
Current Michigan law prohibits texting for all drivers. Michigan should now follow in the footsteps of a few other states and municipalities that have required all cell phone use while driving to be via hands-free devices, or outright ban cell phone use among drivers.
We call upon our legislators to look at this issue and take action. And do what you - as a driver, a father, a teacher - can to make our roads safer for all. That’s all we ask.