Distracted driving becoming a problem

Posted: Thursday, October 15, 2009

The other day on my way to work, a car ahead of me started heading for the guardrail for no apparent reason. Then it suddenly swerved back into the driving lane. I don't know why the driver did that, but something affected his or her driving, almost to the point of killing him.

Was he impaired by drugs or alcohol? Sleepy? Distracted from paying attention to his driving? I don't know.

When I passed him shortly thereafter, he appeared to be sleepy. If I was a police officer, I would have pulled him over to determine why he almost drove into the guardrail.

The last question, was he impaired by being distracted? That has gotten a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. On any given day, I notice a lot of drivers on their cell phones. I can't say that I've never used my cell phone when driving, but I can say I tell whomever is calling that I'm driving and will call back. But the better practice is to let the phone ring and call back when it's safe. It is never safe to talk on a cell phone while driving.

I see people stopped at red lights, turning, waiting at a stop sign, waiting to enter traffic from a parking lot, and just driving down the road while talking on their phones - all situations where 100 percent of the driver's attention should be on driving and not on what to pick up from the store.

A driver in Anchorage recently crashed his car while trying to pick up his cell phone that he dropped on the floor. That crash was no accident. The driver is lucky no one died because he wanted to talk to somebody while driving.

Even Congress is entering the discussion of using cell phones while driving (not so much talking but texting while driving). I know texting may seem like second nature to some people, but texting is dangerous for anyone to do while driving. If it wasn't, it would not have attracted the attention of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who recently brought together transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement officers, members of Congress, academics and people who have texted while driving to the White House summit in Washington, D.C.

Dave Brower

Assistant attorney general and Alaska's traffic safety resource prosecutor

Juneau



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