While smartphone use gets the bulk of the headlines during Inattentive Driving Awareness Month,
Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski says there is more to the issue. For some, texting while driving is becoming a bigger threat to motorist safety than operating vehicles while intoxicated. That issue was recently addressed with legislation was passed to make texting while driving illegal.
Joski says it is easy to pinpoint people while they are stuck on their phones while driving, but other distractions like food, music, and kids are a little harder for law enforcement to discern.
He points out that the average text requires the driver to focus on their smartphone for five seconds, which is the equivalent of driving five football fields at 55 miles per hour. He encourages drivers to just focus on the task at hand and let other people in the car handle the distraction of a cellphone.
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There are two reasons for this week’s topic. The first is that with all of the other awareness campaigns in the month of April, this month is also designated as awareness of Inattentive Driving. The second reason is that our youngest just received his temporary driving permit and I find myself lecturing him about this subject as well. So far he is developing some great defensive driving skills, but my message of other drivers being less than attentive while driving is probably wearing on his nerves already, so I thought I would change my audience.
We hear a lot of attention being given to texting while driving and rightfully so. I recently attended a meeting where it was stated that the behavior of texting while driving now poses a greater threat than Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated. We have made a huge impact on the number of persons operating a motor vehicle while impaired, and now we must turn our attention to other behavior which is the cause of so many accidents.
There has recently been legislation passed making it illegal to text while driving. This is a great start, but inattentive driving is not just texting. It includes any behavior which takes the focus of the driver away from doing what they should and that is driving. We can include in this list: Eating, Drinking, Personal Hygiene, Searching for items, Distraction by Passengers, and the list goes on. By the way, there is a law for that. Wisconsin State Statute 346.89(1) “Inattentive Driving “which brings with it a $187.90 fine and a four-point assessment on your license.
What makes texting while driving unique in the danger that it poses, is that an average text requires the driver to focus on the device for five seconds. A vehicle traveling at 55mph will cover the distance of a football field in 5 seconds. As a test, the next time you are a passenger in a motor vehicle, close your eyes for 5 seconds and then consider the danger that you would have put yourself and others in if you had actually been operating the motor vehicle at that time. Another test I would ask that you conduct is to pay attention to those drivers you meet on the roadway. Take a moment to notice whether or not they are actually attentive, or as I have seen are they actually looking down as you pass within feet of their vehicle. It’s amazing how many fall into that second category. Don’t be that driver!
As with any accident, defensive driving is paramount. Do not assume that the vehicle in front of you or behind you is being attentive. Always consider what your reaction would be if that vehicle in front of you came to an abrupt halt, or if that vehicle behind you did not slow down as you were applying the brakes. Don’t assume that the vehicle coming toward you in the opposite lane is going to stay in that lane. Don’t assume that the vehicle approaching that stop sign is going to stop. Be prepared for the unexpected.
The main message here is that if you are the driver, please just drive. If you are a passenger, let them drive. If you receive a call or text from a person and you know they are driving ask that they contact you once they get where they are going. Unfortunately, the enforcement of Inattentive driving is usually reactionary once an accident has happened; however, do not be surprised if you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer because they observed you not looking at the roadway in front of you. It’s all about saving lives.