Over the past decade, distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of vehicle crashes on our nation’s roads. Acadiana Regional Safety Coordinator Ron Czajkowski is encouraging drivers to put down the phone. To spread awareness of this issue, the Acadiana Regional Safety Coalition is holding a Distracted Driving Meme contest for students in Acadiana’s high schools. $500 in total prizes will be available to students who can create an effective meme to inform and discourage distracted driving on Acadiana’s roadways. Check out http://mpo.planacadiana.org/traffic-safety-contest/ for more information on contest rules and the contest application.
According to NHTSA, between 2012 and 2018, nearly 23,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver. In fact, there were 2,841 people killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2018. While this represents a 12-percent decrease in distracted driving fatalities from 2017, there is clearly more work to be done. There are still thousands of preventable deaths happening on our roads every year.
Over the years, young drivers have become the worst texting-while-driving offenders, using their cell phones to talk, text, and scroll through social media while behind the wheel. According to NHTSA, young drivers 16 to 24 years old have also been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers have since 2007. In fact, in 2018, 8 percent of people killed in teen (15-19) driving crashes died when those teen drivers were distracted at the time of the crash. By utilizing peer to peer connections through the meme medium, the Coalition hopes that area students can combat these trends.
“It is absurd how common it has become to see people driving down the road looking at their phones,” said Ron Czajkowski. “People know texting and driving is dangerous and often illegal, but they selfishly do it anyway, and it puts others at risk.”
Violating Louisiana’s distracted-driving laws can be costly. Louisiana’s texting and driving laws carry up to a $500 fine for violations.
Many drivers are guilty of a “double standard” when it comes to distracted driving. In its 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index, the AAA Foundation reported that while nearly 96 percent of drivers believed it was very or extremely dangerous to read a text or email while driving, 4 out of 10 drivers admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days.
“We all have cell phones, and we use them all the time,” said Ron Czajkowski. “But when you get behind the wheel, putting away your phone should be just as automatic as putting on your seat belt. No one is good at driving distracted. If your attention is anywhere other than on the road, you’re a dangerous driver. You want other drivers to pay attention to the road, right? You should pay attention, too.”
Drive Safe Every Trip
Ron Czajkowski and NHTSA urge you to put your phone down when you get behind the wheel. If you need to text, then pull over and do not drive while doing so. If you’re driving, follow these steps for a safe driving experience:
- If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
- Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
- Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
- Cell phone use is habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your destination.
Texting while driving is dangerous and illegal. Break the cycle. And if you are a teen, visit http://mpo.planacadiana.org/traffic-safety-contest/ to learn more about sharing the word on preventing distracted driving.