Inattentive driving covers more than texting, but all its forms can be dangerous
There are two reasons for this week’s topic. The first is that with all of the other awareness campaigns in the month of April, this month is also designated nationally as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
The second reason is that our youngest just received his temporary driving permit and I find myself lecturing him about this subject as well. So far, he is developing some great defensive driving skills, but my message of other drivers being less than attentive while driving is probably wearing on his nerves already, so I thought I would change my audience.
We hear a lot of attention being given to texting while driving and rightfully so. I recently attended a meeting where it was stated that the behavior of texting while driving now poses a greater threat than operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. We have made a huge impact on the number of persons operating while impaired, and now we must turn our attention to other behavior which is the cause of so many accidents.
Recently there has been legislation passed making it illegal to text while driving. This is a great start, but inattentive driving is not just texting.
It includes any behavior which takes the focus of the driver away from doing what they should be doing — and that is driving.
We can include in this list eating, drinking, personal hygiene, searching for items, distraction by passengers, and the list goes on.
By the way there is a law for that. Wisconsin State Statute 346.89(1), “Inattentive Driving," brings with it a $187.90 fine and a 4-point assessment on your license.
What makes texting while driving unique in its danger is that an average text requires the driver to focus on the device for five seconds. A vehicle traveling at 55 mph will cover the distance of a football field in those five seconds.
As a test, the next time you are a passenger in a motor vehicle, close your eyes for five seconds, and then consider the danger that you would have put yourself and others in if you had actually been operating the motor vehicle in that time.
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Another test I would ask you to conduct is to pay attention to those drivers you meet on the roadway. Take a moment to notice whether or not they are actually attentive or, as I have seen, if they actually are looking down as you pass within feet of their vehicle. It’s amazing how many fall into that second category. Don’t be that driver!
As with any accident, defensive driving is paramount. Do not assume that the vehicle in front of you or behind you is being attentive.
Always consider what your reaction would be if that vehicle in front of you came to an abrupt halt, or if that vehicle behind you did not slow down as you were applying the brakes.
Don’t assume that the vehicle coming toward you in the opposite lane is going to stay in that lane.
Don’t assume that the vehicle approaching that stop sign is going to stop.
Be prepared for the unexpected.
The main message here is that if you are the driver, please just drive. If you are a passenger, let them drive. If you receive a call or text from a person and you know they are driving, ask that they contact you once they get where they are going.
Unfortunately the enforcement of inattentive driving is usually reactionary once an accident has happened. However, do not be surprised if you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer because they observed you not looking at the roadway in front of you.
It’s all about saving lives.
Matt Joski is the Kewaunee County Sheriff.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Inattentive driving covers more than texting, but all its forms can be dangerous