Distracted Driver Awareness Month: Distracted driving can lead to life-changing events
Cheyenne, WY. – What started as a normal work day a few years ago for a Wyoming Department of Transportation maintenance crew quickly became a life-changing event because of a distracted driver.
A truck driver who was using his laptop while driving sideswiped a WYDOT maintenance vehicle. A WYDOT worker sustained non-life-threatening injuries, while the truck driver walked away uninjured. The WYDOT employee, however, never went back to work.
“My guys and I have seen distracted driving getting worse over the years,” said Tony Avila, area foreman for WYDOT. “Every day we see people driving distracted in their vehicles. People need to pay attention and watch the road. That way, they can avoid getting into an accident and possibly hurting themselves, someone else or, worst case, killing themselves or someone else.”
With April being national distracted driver awareness month, WYDOT officials want to remind motorists to pay attention when driving and eliminate distractions. Common distractions include using cellphones, talking to passengers, changing the radio station, putting on makeup and eating.
“There are three types of distractions – visual, manual or cognitive,” said Sgt. Momen Elazizi of the Wyoming Highway Patrol. “Texting and driving combines all three types of distractions. When you’re texting, you’re taking your eyes off the road, taking your hands off the steering wheel and thinking about what you’re typing. That’s definitely a recipe for disaster.”
Over the past five years, statistics from WYDOT’s Highway Safety Office showed distracted driving crashes have remained steady in Wyoming. In 2017, there were about 180 crashes resulting from people using cellphones or other electronic communication devices. There were 165 crashes in 2016, 180 in 2015, 181 in 2014 and 172 in 2013, statistics showed.
“If you’re driving at 55 mph and take your eyes off the road for five seconds, that’s approximately the length of a football field,” Elazizi said. “That’s a far distance to travel and not be looking at where you’re going.”
Besides cellphone use, other distractions that have caused crashes are TVs, computers, passengers, pets and outside distractions. In 2017, there were 51 crashes from “other electronic devices,” which includes TVs, computers and other palm held devices. There were 376 crashes reported in 2017 for distractions inside a vehicle, which included passengers and pets. For distractions outside a vehicle, there were 304 crashes reported.
The best advice for motorists is to always pay attention.
“The fight with distracted driving starts with you,” Elazizi said. “You obviously need to do what’s important right now, which is driving. If you are a passenger, you need to speak out if the diver of your vehicle is distracted.”