By MEL RHODES
You’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it.
You’re driving down the street and you look over at the vehicle in the next lane and the driver is not driving – at least not attentively. The head is slumped downward and the eyes are riveted to something cradled in the hand: a handheld device – smartphone. Perhaps the thumbs are rapidly tapping out a text message on that smartphone.
In government or law enforcement parlance, this is called “distracted driving.”
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation website www.distraction.gov, anything causing a driver’s concentration to shift from the act of driving leads to distracted driving – using a cell or smartphone, grooming, reading, watching a video, etc.
“But because text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction,” the site reads.
According to former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, “Every single time you take your eyes off the road or talk on the phone while you’re driving – even for just a few seconds – you put yourself and others in danger.
Distracted driving is an epidemic on America’s roadways. You see it every day: Drivers swerving in their lanes, stopping at green lights, running red ones or narrowly missing a pedestrian because they have their eyes and minds on their phones instead of the road. Yet, people continue to assume that they can drive and text or talk at the same time. The results are preventable accidents. In 2011, 3,331 people were killed, and an estimated additional 387,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.”
So why doesn’t the federal government just enact laws making texting behind the wheel illegal? Because passenger car or personal vehicle driving behavior falls under the jurisdiction of the various state governments.