East Penn Press

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

ANOTHER VIEW

Wednesday, June 12, 2019 by The Press in Opinion

‘Distracted driving is dangerous driving’

In 2018, the police blotter published in the April 18 edition of the East Penn Press included an accident report from Pennsylvania State Police Fogelsville of a man getting hurt when his vehicle drifted off the road, hit a ditch and two trees, overturned and struck a pickup parked in a driveway.

The reason?

According to police, the driver took his eyes off the road while trying to retrieve his cellphone from the floor where he dropped it while pulling it from a cup holder in the center console.

No details were provided by police on whether the man was trying to make or take a call, read or send a text, take a selfie or check his email, Instagram or Facebook accounts.

Whatever the reason, he was distracted from the task at hand, his driving and that is not good.

In a report dated Feb. 13, the automotive search engine Autolist.com reported the average car weight in 2018 was more than 4,000 pounds. Compact SUVs can tip the scales at close to 5,000 pounds. And a new model year pickup truck can surpass 6,000 pounds – standing still.

Add driving, particularly driving while not giving full attention to the challenging work of piloting a vehicle, and the outcome may not be safe arrival at your destination.

Many local residents may remember the 2008 news story of a young woman who was seriously injured and her parents killed on their way home to Lancaster County after her graduation ceremonies at Muhlenberg College when a teen driver, reportedly talking on his cellphone, ran a red light and crashed into their vehicle.

In its 2018 traffic safety culture index, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found 88 percent of drivers believe distracted driving is on the rise.

The National Safety Council attributes some of that distraction to technologies incorporated into newer vehicles such as dashboard touch screens. Other factors include use of tech gadgets inside the vehicle. Drivers are using cellphones to take photos of themselves, shoot video of their commute, change their playlists to hear their latest favorite song, use traffic and other apps and more.

And technology is not solely at fault.

Eating, putting on makeup, looking for something in your purse and reading a newspaper or book all qualify as distracted driving. I once saw a driver reading a picture book to her child in the back seat while she was driving.

Perhaps a few local experts can be more persuasive in stressing the importance to just drive.

Salisbury Township Police Department Officer Bryan Losagio has been in the business of traffic safety for many years, conducting, by his estimation, approximately 10,000 traffic stops in the last 18 years.

In an email response to a request for help with this piece, Losagio wrote, “I’ve had people nearly run into me several times. I’ve witnessed crashes while on traffic stops due to people not paying attention to the vehicle in front of them because they were so focused on the vehicle I had stopped.

“About a year ago or so, I had a vehicle stopped on South Pike Avenue when a man on a motorcycle was looking at the vehicle I had stopped and ended up running into the back of a vehicle in front of him.”

Emmaus Police Chief Charles Palmer, also by email, added.

“Police officers are out driving as part of their everyday duties and are put at risk, just like the rest of the motoring public, by the selfishness of distracted drivers that attempt to divide their attention between driving and doing other things such as texting, eating or drinking, personal grooming, attending to passengers or pets or any other thing that takes them away from concentrating on the task at hand, driving.”

As we enter what travel groups and oil and gas corporations often herald as summer driving season, with, in my opinion, more people on the road with more people in the family car en route to picnics, the beach, family reunions in neighboring and not so neighboring states and other activities, it is important for drivers to maintain focus, despite various distractions.

AAA offers the following tips regarding distracted driving on the website aaa.com:

– Stow electronic distractions and never use text messaging, email, video games or Internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.

– Program your GPS and adjust seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before driving.

– Properly secure children and pets and store loose possessions and other items that could roll around in the car.

– Snack smart and avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage while behind the wheel.

And Palmer may add wait until you get home to scratch off what you hope to be a prizewinning lottery ticket. He was once called to an one-vehicle accident where a driver hit a utility pole while driving and scratching off a lottery ticket. The driver totaled the car and had to pay for a new pole, he said.

Also, drivers should be well-rested before getting behind the wheel. Fatigue also can distract drivers and put others on the road at risk.

Veteran traffic officer Losagio should have the last word.

“Very simply said, distracted driving is dangerous driving.”

April Peterson

editorial assistant

East Penn Press

Salisbury Press