The Edmond Sun

Opinion

February 14, 2014

Driving under the influence of distraction

OKLA. CITY — The crash report said, “The vehicle crossed the center line and smashed into the victim’s car.” Another said, “The victim’s car went off the side of the road and overturned.” Unfortunately, these kinds of crashes occur frequently.

What’s causing them? All too often, they involve drivers who are distracted. The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office says there were more than 11,000 crashes in Oklahoma in 2012 in which distraction played a role. And when it comes to risky driver distraction, texting is at the top of the list.

Texting and emailing behind the wheel means our hands are off the wheel, our eyes are off the road and our minds are anywhere but on driving. What’s more, sending, reading and receiving text-based messages on hand-held devices are at epidemic levels. Drive Oklahoma’s roads and you’ll see the bobbing heads. From behind, such drivers appear drunk: slowing, speeding and weaving.

A 2006 study conducted by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute revealed that taking your eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles your risk of a crash and that drivers are 23 times more likely to get into a crash if they’re texting than if they are not.

Is a texting ban enforceable? Law enforcement officers, from city cops to state troopers, say yes. They tell me, “Pass a law — we’ll enforce it.” In fact, Virginia recorded 725 convictions during the second half of 2013, the first six months the state had a law. Forty other states also have texting bans.

A dozen bills outlawing texting behind the wheel are being considered by the Oklahoma Legislature this year. It’s time for the Legislature to send a clear and urgent message to Oklahoma motorists that texting while driving is so risky, it’s against the law. If you agree, do us all a favor and let your state lawmakers know.

 

CHUCK MAI is Vice President of Public Affairs, AAA Oklahoma. Contact Chuck at 405-753-8040.                              

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Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

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