“Be extra careful driving late at night. You are likely going to be sharing the road with drunk drivers.”
If your parents were like mine when I started driving in South Florida, you likely heard this familiar warning many times. Unfortunately, they were sometimes right. If my two children were teenagers learning how to drive now, I would offer the same admonishment. I would also add the following:
“Be careful driving anytime and anywhere. You are definitely going to be sharing the road with drivers who are distracted and not paying attention because they are using their cell phones.”
The truth is that drivers who are distracted by cell phone use can be just as deadly as an impaired driver. The scary truth? There are a lot more folks out on the roads that are distracted by cell phones than impaired drivers.
A recent article in the Palm Beach Post highlighted an alarming trend. For the first time in five years, there was an increase in the number of traffic fatalities per year in Palm Beach County. In Palm Beach County alone, there were 137 traffic fatalities in 2012 compared with 113 in 2011. The likely suspect? Mobile devices according to law enforcement officials and state legislators. The problem of distracted drivers due to cell phone use is not unique to our county. This is a national trend. More and more people each year are dying as a result of someone texting, emailing, or talking on the cell phone.
If we are going to reverse these troubling trends, we will need to do two things. First, we need to increase awareness about the deadly consequences of texting while driving. Get the message out. Reinforce the message with your family, friends, and people with whom you travel. Encourage your employer to institute a companywide policy banning the use of cell phones without a handsfree device. There is no phone call, text, or email that is so important that it would justify putting your life, the lives of your passengers, and the lives of the rest of the motoring public at risk.
Second, we need to demand that our elected officials in Tallahassee finally pass a law banning texting while driving. Since 2002, there have been dozens of unsuccessful attempts in the Florida legislature to pass legislation to make it illegal to text while driving. It’s high time for our representatives in the House and the Senate to get on the same page and finally pass this lifesaving legislation.