It’s the first day of Spring, and we have high hopes that warmer weather is on the way after a long, cold winter in Virginia. We have high hopes for something else which is occurring in Virginia at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). VDOT is homing in on distracted drivers! Hopefully, this will spark a safe-driving movement that aims at reducing (voluntary) distractions by drivers across the U.S.
What is a distracted driver? If you have driven on any U.S. roads recently–whether state routes, country roads, or interstate highways, you know who these folks are, you’ve seen them, and possibly you are among their numbers–as we all are occasionally. But we are talking about habitually distracted drivers, who might better have their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. But as we well know, this is not always the case, and distracted drivers are more frequently becoming the source of unfortunate and often tragic accidents.
What do distracted drivers do when they are supposed to be focused on driving their vehicles? Distracted drivers may be doing any, some or all of the following while driving–and these are only a few of the activities we have observed:
- Eating, drinking, and/or smoking (lighting or putting out cigarettes, cigars, or pipes) while driving can be very distracting–even momentarily; spilling hot food, cold or hot drinks, or cigarette ashes;
- Talking on, listening to, or dialing cell phones;
- Typing and sending text messages via cell phones;
- Watching or listening to TV (now, I ask you…)
- Listening to recorded/downloaded music on iPod-like devices, tape/CD-players or portable radios with earphones in-ears (the latter is actually illegal in many states);
- Working on… or playing games… on laptop computers;
- Changing clothing; putting on make-up;
- Reading the newspaper, books or maps.
The aforementioned are only some of the things distracted drivers do. We are sure you can add other erstwhile activities you have seen people doing when they should be focused on driving, to the list, as distracted driving has become so prevalent, so commonly occurring. The issue really impressed me while driving on a state route near my home; I noticed an SUV approaching in the rear view mirror at a rather high rate of speed. The SUV came close enough that I noted a neighbors’ young daughter driving and excitedly talking on her cell phone (which was held by her neck) as she gestured with her hands. My sole thought was: What is holding the steering wheel? (And, yes, I called her mom–not to tattle, but simply to ask in whose name the car was insured…)
Meanwhile, our concern is not just for the distracted drivers or for the jeopardy in which they place other drivers–but for the young children and infants who are often passengers in their cars–who can become accident victims very quickly. How often have we seen parents or caregivers with children in booster seats drive down the road in a vehicle while talking or texting on a cell phone? If this isn’t illegal in all states, it needs to be. So ChildSafetyBlog.org’s hat is off to VDOT for their spearheading the charge against this distracted driver syndrome! Go for it, with our blessing and whole-hearted support. It only makes sense for people to pull over and stop to make or take a call, or text on a cell phone. The other stuff? Hopefully, you can wait until you get home to see the next episode of “Desperate Housewives”!