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Opinion and Editorial

Distracted Driving: A Tragic Epidemic

Contributing Author: Alex Acierno 

Distracted driving has unfortunately become a common practice among young drivers over the past few years.  As more and more technological advances and new social media sites emerge, it gives young adults more reason to want to look at their phone, even while they are behind the wheel.   Although cell phone use while driving is common, so are other distracting habits such as driving while intoxicated or eating.

A recent AAA Foundation in-car study, showed that teen drivers were distracted almost a quarter of the time they were behind the wheel.  Electronic devices that provide services such as texting, emails, and downloading music, were among the biggest distractions, accounting for 7 percent of the distractions identified on the study’s video.

Federal estimates suggest that distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths every year.  AAA’s latest research has discovered that distraction “latency” lasts an average of 27 seconds. Meaning that, even after drivers put down the phone or stop fiddling with the navigation system, drivers aren’t fully engaged with the driving task.

“Half the time I look up and forget that I’m even driving after texting which is really bad,” says Bloomsburg

The amount of time drivers spend with their eyes off the road is staggering.
The amount of time drivers spend with their eyes off the road is staggering.

University senior Shannyn Kleeman.

It is no secret that the amount of time we spend on our smart phones has increased over the past few years. Smartphone addiction has become a real problem for some members of our generation.

According to distraction.gov, the official U.S. government website for distracted driving, at any given moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.

Ten percent of drivers of all ages under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. Drivers in their twenties make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes.

In 2015 Bloomsburg University had 2,162 students in the freshman class. According to the numbers above this would mean that 216 of those students were involved in fatal crashes due to distracted driving.

“I know it’s bad, but I can’t say I’ll never do it ever again,” says Bloomsburg University senior Tiara Redd.

distracted driving memeOne of the main issues with distracted driving is that drivers are unaware of how much danger they cause not only for themselves, but other drivers.

“I never thought about how dangerous it was that I was texting and driving because I never considered how many people’s eyes were off the road while mine were,” says Bloomsburg University junior Megan Richardson.

People also don’t realize that when they distract themselves behind the wheel, they’re not the only ones. The more people not focused on the road the more dangerous driving becomes for everyone.

“I didn’t know about how many drivers were using their phones while driving, and that’s like really scary,” says Richardson.

Cell phone use is not the only thing that has drivers distracted behind the wheel. The other big, and perhaps more concerning distraction is driving under the influence of alcohol. The number of people who admitted to driving under the influence was surprising to say the least.

According to madd.org, the rate of drunk driving is highest among 21 to 25 year olds.

In 2012, 29.1 million people admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol, which is more than the population of Texas. As a result, 28 people die every day in America from being involved in a drunk driving crash.

“I don’t understand why anyone would drive while they’re drunk,” says Bloomsburg University junior Emily Dweck, “It’s just asking for trouble; no good can come out of it and it’s not worth the risk.”

Dweck is right. The amount of people who drive intoxicated, and the number of deaths that result from it, is staggering.

“I had a friend that was driving from St. Joe’s to Temple and she had been drinking but she didn’t think drunk driving chartshe was drinking that much,” explains Bloomsburg junior Ali McLaughlin. “She drove her car right into a ditch and got a DUI.”

A lot of high schools across the nation are taking action to open students’ eyes to the dangers of drinking and driving by setting up a fake accident such as the one shown in this video.

“At my high school they do this program every few years before prom. It acts as a practice for all the medical teams involved and teaches kids about the dangers of drinking and driving. This was not the one taken at my school but it is very similar,” says Bloomsburg University senior Troy Scanlon.

Scanlon says, “It might not seem like something that high school students could take seriously, but by the end of the day there wasn’t a dry eye at the school. It really made you think about if that was you or a friend in that car.”

Distracted driving is a predicament sweeping the nation that can easily be put to an end. Every day when drivers get behind the wheel, they make the conscious choice to look at their phones or have a few drinks before getting into the car. This is a tragic epidemic that can be changed very easily; all it takes is a simple change of habit.