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It’s time to take distracted driving seriously

A couple of weeks ago, I was cruising down State Route 51 in the left hand lane when I noticed up ahead of me a driver swerve into my lane.

Not just a couple inches either. Half of his vehicle entered the left lane.

Once I caught up, I could see him texting behind the wheel. Even swerving into the next lane didn’t stop him. It’s not an uncommon sight on the roads but that is exactly why I stopped doing it.

Frankly, I wasn’t very good at it. Numerous studies have shown no one is; at either multi-tasking or texting while driving. Despite this evidence, many still insist they have mastered them.

Tuesday, the USA Today reported:

Death of teen drivers jumped 19% in the first six months of last year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributes the spike in traffic fatalities to the economy mostly, but I wonder if the ever-growing number of distractions is part of the equation. The NHTSA doesn’t keep track of distracted driving numbers but distractions are everywhere.

As early as next year, General Motors will start selling cars equipped with 4G service. Yes. They are turning cars into Wi-Fi hot spots. That’s exactly what we don’t need: More distractions while we are on the road.

I know technology and staying connected are selling points for new cars but it’s time to start taking distractions seriously. We do when it comes to drinking and driving. We’ve even accepted and welcomed the penalties that come with it (jail time, loss of license and fines).

But we do the opposite with technology in today’s new cars. We crave more. BMW even has an app that reads Facebook and Twitter updates to you. Are we this addicted to social media?

I’m not intending to brag here, but I’ve also stopped eating behind the wheel. I remember the specific moment I stopped doing it. I was heading west on Interstate 10 dipping my chicken sandwich in ketchup when I swerved into the next lane. That was enough to make me stop. When I need to eat, for the safety of everyone around me, I eat in the restaurant or in the parking lot before I drive off.

By no means am I a perfect driver, but I do strive to make it to and from work without distractions. I can manage to avoid checking my phone or reading Facebook for 30 minutes. That information can wait until I arrive at my destination.

It’s tragic that 240 16- and 17-year-olds died behind the wheel in the first six months of 2012. If we all started taking distracted driving more seriously, maybe we wouldn’t have to keep reading headlines like that.