Did you see the latest YouTube video of that calico cat riding around the kitchen floor on the robotic vacuum? It was so funny! But I hope you didn’t watch it while you were driving.
That sounds ridiculous, but when someone hears the familiar tone of a text hitting the phone, they grab their device and see who is trying to connect with them. It might be a quick text saying, “I’ll be 5 minutes late,” or it might be a link to a funny cat video. Either way, every second you look at your phone, as opposed to the road, could cause a serious crash.
When describing crashes, the CHP uses the word “collision,” as opposed to the word “accident.” This is because almost all collisions are not accidents, but are preventable. If a driver who was involved in a collision had been operating the vehicle appropriately, then the crash would not have happened. It takes just a brief moment of distraction to do something behind the wheel that can lead to a collision. That is why the CHP takes distracted driving education, and enforcement, so seriously. We want to save lives.
The month of April is National Distracted Driver Awareness Month, and the CHP wants to remind motorists to stay alert and drive without distraction. Our slogan is, “It’s not worth it!” I guarantee you, there is no cat video or text from a friend worth losing your life. Driving is a complex task requiring a driver’s full attention. Anything that diverts the driver’s eyes or attention from the roadway could result in tragedy. That means the usual suspects: talking on the telephone, sending a text, looking at a digital map, and especially, watching cat videos. No matter what the distraction, I assure you, “It’s not worth it!”
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Motorists must always remain defensive when driving, and this is harder to do if they are distracted. Unfortunately, some drivers are participating in multiple distractions while driving. Some of these distractions include:
▪ Applying make-up or shaving
▪ Reading the newspaper
▪ Headphones on both ears
▪ Small dogs on the driver’s lap
▪ Checking emails or surfing the Internet with any kind of device (cat videos)
▪ Talking/texting on cellular telephones
The CHP wants to remind all Californians that, as of Jan. 1, a new hands-free cellular telephone law was implemented. This law is more restrictive than previous mobile phone laws. Specifically, drivers in California are required to keep a cellular telephone out of their hands while operating a motor vehicle. This change, in California’s hands-free law, results from the passage of AB 1785, which prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle while holding or operating a handheld wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device. That new law adds to current existing law prohibiting a person from driving a motor vehicle while using an “electronic wireless communications device” to write, send, or read text-based communication, unless the device allows for voice-operated and hands-free operation.
It just takes one second of distraction to cause a traffic collision. That one second to send a text message can change your life or the lives of others around you. Most collisions occur in less than three seconds and it takes the average person 4.6 seconds to read or send a text message. Just three seconds of texting while driving at 65 mph is equal to driving 100 yards, or the length of a football field, while blindfolded.
From the eyes of an officer driving behind someone, distracted driving sometimes looks like drunk or drugged driving. Some of the same clues a CHP officer uses to identify a possible impaired driver are the same for a driver who is on their cellular telephone. Violators weave, speed up and slow down. It is obvious this behavior is unsafe while operating a vehicle. Unfortunately, as a society, we still openly participate in these activities as we drive, even though we know we can hurt ourselves or others.
I will be the first to admit hearing the chime of my text message makes me want to grab my telephone immediately and check to see who sent a message. In order to not be tempted, I put my cellphone in the rear seat of my vehicle so I won’t handle my telephone while driving.
Let’s work together to make the roadways a safer place. One easy way is to limit the distractions while driving. No texting, and of course, no cat videos. If you would like one of our officers to come to your workplace or school and speak about the dangers of distracted driving to your staff or students, please send me an email and I will help you schedule the presentation.
Officer Traci Gallian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from the CHP Central Division, go to the division’s Facebook page.