Drivers should avoid improper cell-phone use to prevent tragedy
Pedestrians have a responsibility to keep themselves safe by paying attention to their surroundings and obeying traffic laws. But there’s another half of the pedestrian-safety equation that lies squarely with drivers.
While overall traffic deaths have decreased 27 percent since 2005, pedestrian deaths actually increased slightly in the U.S., with 97 pedestrians killed in Missouri in 2018 alone, according to the latest statistics from the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety.
State and federal agencies agree that one of the key factors in pedestrian deaths caused by drivers is inattention, which has been exacerbated in recent years by the improper use of cell phones and the dangerous practice of texting and driving.
“Any type of distracted driving is dangerous, but texting and driving amplifies this due to taking the field of view of the driver off of the road,” said Christian Marsh, a supervisory traffic management and collision investigations officer with the Fort Leonard Wood Directorate of Emergency Services.
Marsh added, because improper cell-phone use reduces a driver’s reaction time, it often contributes to lane violations, traffic control device violations, and could cause accidents that may not have occurred if the driver was focused on the road.
Fort Leonard Wood patrols regularly conduct traffic stops any time drivers are observed using cell phones without a hands-free device. The fine on post for improper cell-phone use while driving is $50 in addition to a $30 processing fee.
Marsh said there were 60 recorded violations for improper cell-phone use in 2019 and 24 violations so far this year.
“There have been accidents that have occurred because the driver was on their cell phone,” he added. “While driving in both my personal vehicle and patrol vehicle, I have observed near misses where the driver of a vehicle is clearly distracted and drifts into another lane or off the road.”
Traffic-safety experts both inside and outside the gate agree that texting and driving should be avoided at all costs. According to the MoDOT, 14 percent of all crashes recorded in the state from 2015 to 2017 involved some form of distracted driving. Experts estimate that texting drivers take their eyes off the road an average of 4.6 seconds at a time, more than enough time for a crash to occur.
In addition to avoiding texting and driving, MoDOT safety officials urge drivers with children approaching driving age to take the following steps:
— Set a good example by avoiding phone use while driving.
—Talk to your child about the risks and responsibilities of driving and the danger of dividing their attention between operating their vehicle and their cell phone.
— Establish ground rules about not texting or talking while behind the wheel and enforce limits set by Missouri’s graduated licensing program.
— Have your child sign a pledge, agreeing to wear seat belts, avoid speeding, drinking and driving or using a cell phone. Agree on penalties for violating the pledge, including paying for tickets and the loss of driving privileges.
The U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center offers the following tips for drivers to remember when encountering pedestrians:
— Always keep in mind that pedestrians can be encountered anywhere at any time while driving.
— Pay attention to crosswalks. Make sure that pedestrians are not crossing the road before driving through a crosswalk.
— Pay attention to traffic controls.
— Yield to pedestrians already crossing the road, even if they are not at a crosswalk.
— Be attentive, especially around schools and neighborhoods where children are present.
— Never assume that a pedestrian can see or hear your vehicle.
For more information about responsible driving habits and avoiding distracted driving, visit:
— The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety at https://www.savemolives.com/mcrs
— The U.S. Army Safety Office at https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/Pedestrian
— The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety.