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Written by Ben Jorgensen, The Clearwater Progress   

Distractions can be fatal

     The Idaho State Police is reminding everyone that April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This doesn't mean drivers should be unaware of distractions the other 11 months, it's just more of a wakeup call to how dangerous driving can be for everyone who does not take it seriously.

     I suspect most drivers believe they are better behind the wheel than they really are and only by the Grace of God avoid disaster by fractions of seconds and inches.

     Anyone who drives while talking on a phone, or texting, or is trying to dance in the front seat to music louder than a home game for the Seahawks has either overconfidence in their ability, extreme naiveté, or just doesn't care about anything further than the emblem on the hood.

     Despite far fewer vehicles in rural areas, dangers are particularly acute in such settings.

     According to the ISP, between 2010 to 2012 80% of the fatal distracted driving crashes occurred in rural areas. Distracted driving contributed to almost one of every three fatal or serious injury crashes in Idaho and resulted in 28% of the economic costs of crashes.

     Just over half of the fatal distracted driving crashes involved a single vehicle. We are simply our own worst enemy.

     "It only takes a second for something tragic to happen," states the ISP. "If you take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel for any reason, even for just a moment, it can lead to a serious or even fatal crash."

     Distractions put not only the driver at risk, but their passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers as well.

     Every driver knows this, but few seem willing to curb their bad behavior.

     It's nice that the ISP is warning people to be proactive and take better care while on the roads, but I'd like to see them go a step further. Police accident reports generally list whether drivers wore a seat belt or not or if alcohol was a factor.

     Distracted driving is equivalent to drunken driving in many instances so why not inform the public via accident reports about driver's specific distractions that results in wrecks and fatalities?

     If a guy fails to negotiate a curve in the road and wrapped the car around a tree was it because he was texting his girlfriend? Picking a booger? What causes the "failure to maintain their lane" wrecks?

     The nature of distraction resulting in a crash on a public thoroughfare requiring tax funded emergency responders is every bit as relevant as whether or not a seat belt was worn.

     Maybe it will help educate the populace to take better care when maneuvering multiple tons of machinery at speeds of 100 feet per second or more.


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