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Distracted driving a hazard on roads

U.S. Army Combat Readiness Safety Center Graphic Design

U.S. Army Combat Readiness Safety Center Graphic Design

Published: August 29, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 29, 2014) -- Most American’s know that when behind the wheel drivers must place 100 percent of their attention on the road, but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration distracted driving is now the leading cause of car accidents in the United States.

In 2012, according to NHTSA, there were more than 3,300 deaths attributed to distracted driving.  There were more than 421,000 people injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, and 23 percent of all car collisions in 2011 involved cell phones – that’s more than one million crashes.

All the more reason drivers on the installation need to put the cell phone down and focus on the task of simply driving, said Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker chief of police. 

“A distracted driver is normally someone using an electronic device that distracts the user and reduces the user’s situational awareness.” said Dumais, adding that devices can impair driving and mask or prevent recognition of emergency signals, alarms, announcements, on-coming vehicles and pedestrians.

But distracted driving isn’t only using a cell phone, he continued. Having too many people in a vehicle, listening to loud music, eating, shaving, putting on makeup, having a passenger in such a position to interfere with the driver’s view or children pulling the drivers attention away from the road can be distracting to the driver.

Even though using a cellular device isn’t the only cause of distracted driving, on the installation it does violate regulation.

“If a person is driving on post and using an electronic device such as a cellular phone, personal data assistant, global positioning system, videogame or any electronic device that sends or receives electronic mail or text messages and is pulled over by Fort Rucker police personnel could receive a $55 citation,” he said. “The ticket will be placed in the police blotter and if the violator is a Soldier the ticket will be viewed by their chain of command.”

Dumais said that upholding this standard can save lives, and that if a passenger is in a car where the driver is handling one of these devices they need to ask them to stop.

According to the NHTSA 48 percent of young drivers have seen their parents drive while talking on a cell phone and have been in a car while the driver was texting, which may or may not influence them in turn to text while driving.

A scary statistic, said Dumais, is one-in-five drivers of all ages confess to surfing the web while driving.

It is not surprising that 77 percent of young adults who are now at driving age who are used to having their mobile device on them at all times are very or somewhat confident that they can safely text while driving, and 55 percent claim it’s easy to text while they drive, according to NHTSA.

Text messaging, according to NHTSA, makes a crash up to 23 times more likely, dialing 2.8 times, talking or listening 1.3 times and even reaching for a device increases a driver’s risk of having an accident 1.4 times more likely.

“I believe anyone riding in a vehicle has the responsibility of being a good passenger, they’re the co-driver, they should assist the driver whenever possible, be looking for potential hazards and alert the driver whenever possible,” continued Dumais.

Drivers need to be in the right frame of mind before they drive their vehicle, said the chief of police.

“Utilize hands free devices if you must answer calls. If you don’t have a hands-free device safely pull over in a parking lot, place the vehicle in park and then answer the call,” he added.

Distracted driving is not only dangerous for people in vehicles, but pedestrians as well.

“You may be the cause of someone else dying on a street, and distracted driving can change your life forever,” said Sharon Manning, installation safety director. “Death by distraction is real.  Distracted driving is increasing and people are of the mentality that it won’t happen to them.”

NHTSA classifies distracted driving into three categories:  visual (taking your eyes off of the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel) and cognitive (taking your mind off driving).

“If we are honest, every one of us is guilty of one of these distractions,” continued Manning. “It’s up to us to decide what we are going to do about it. We have a responsibility not only to ourselves, but to others on the roadway.”

This article was originally published at

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