Thursday, September 23, 2010

Distracted Driving Summit '10

On September 21, a National Distracted Driving Summit was held in Washington, DC, chaired by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Is distracted driving a problem?

According to the NHTSA, almost 20% of all crashes involve some type of distraction. Nearly 6000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver (2008), and more than half a million were injured.

The federal Distracted Driving Website categorizes distracted driving as one of more of:
Visual - taking your eyes off the road
Manual - taking your hands off the wheel
Cognitive - talking your mind off what you are doing

Any one of the three can have fatal consequences. And unfortunately and unfairly, it's not always the distracted driver who ends up with the consequences. Far too often, victims of distracted drivers were doing everything right... they were just in the wrong place and time, when a distracted driver victimized them.

The parents of Kassy Kerfoot, who live in Meridian, testified at the Summit.

Their daughter was 18 when she died. She was texting while driving, and swerved into the oncoming lanes, colliding with 2 other vehicles. Her parents are convinced that a law banning texting-while-driving would result in lives saved. And perhaps it would. But why does the government have to compel people to exercise some basic common sense?

My opinion:
- I'm in favor of laws banning texting-while-driving, and phoning-while-driving, for that matter. It would be wonderful if people could make those choices on their own, but apparently some folks assume that anything not illegal must be safe. (Sigh...)
- I wish more drivers would be cited for Inattentive Driving. Currently it seems to only be enforced in an accident situation, and when the error is egregious.
- As tragic as Kassy's accident was... how much more tragic it would've been, if she'd killed an innocent bystander! (And it's safe to assume that many of those 6000 fatalities and half-a-million injuries occured through no fault of the victims.)

Personally, I'm much more worried about getting plowed into by a distracted driver than by a drunk driver. (Although the results could be the same in either case.)

(Previous commentary - 2009 Distracted Driving Summit - HERE.)

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