A look at the dangers of distracted driving
Distracted driving has been described as an epidemic by many public safety agencies throughout Colorado. Merriam-Webster defines an epidemic as “affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community or region at the same time.” After reading this definition, and after having investigated senseless deaths in motor vehicle crashes, I can see the logic behind this statement.
Most drivers immediately associate distracted driving with cell phone use. Distracted driving goes beyond cell phone use. Any activity that divides your attention while operating a motor vehicle is a distraction. Cell phone use is a primary culprit, but what about other activities we engage in while driving? Passengers, pets, music, food and personal hygiene can all distract our attention from the road.
Let’s take a look at some specific Colorado Revised Statutes regarding wireless phone use:
• C.R.S. 42-4-239 (2): A person under 18 years of age shall not use a wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle.
• C.R.S. 42-4-239 (3): A person 18 years of age or older shall not use a wireless telephone for the purpose of engaging in text messaging or other similar forms of manual data entry or transmission while operating a motor vehicle.
Teens may not talk or text on their phones. Adults may talk on their phones, but are prohibited from texting. Many states have passed “hands-free laws” requiring the use of hands-free devices to talk on a wireless phone. Currently, Colorado does not have such a law.
Consider this: Traveling on the interstate highway at 75 mph, you are moving at approximately 110 feet per second. During the 3 seconds you glanced down at your phone to read a text message, you just traveled 330 feet. This is the entire length of football field. Studies have shown the average perception reaction time for adults is about 1.5 to 1.6 seconds. In other words, it takes about 1.5 seconds for your brain to process visual information from your optic nerve, then tell your body to physically respond to a perceived hazard in the roadway. This physical response could be in the form of braking or steering input.
If you add the 1.5 seconds of perception reaction time to the 3 seconds you glanced at your phone, you just traveled 495 feet. That distance is almost 1/10 of a mile. If a semi jackknifes directly in front of you while you are looking at your phone, you will not have time to react. There is a high probability you will be involved in a serious motor vehicle crash.
Let’s take a look at a few more specific statutes regarding earphones and video displays:
• C.R.S. 42-4-1411 (1) (a): No person shall operate a motor vehicle while wearing earphones.
• C.R.S. 42-4-201 (3): A person shall not drive a motor vehicle equipped with a video display while the motor vehicle is in motion.
The statutes define earphones as any headset, radio or other similar device which provides the listener with audible entertainment and covers all of, or portions of both ears. Hands-free wireless headsets that cover one ear only are exempt. In addition, the statutes exempt the use of computers, data terminals or safety equipment, as long as these devices do not display visual entertainment while the vehicle is in motion. Internet browsing, social media and e-mail are all considered visual entertainment.
In summary, please think twice before texting, listening to headphones or watching movies while driving. Furthermore, never operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Ask yourself: “Is it worth the loss of a life?”
Trooper Kefren Tester is a seven-year veteran assigned to the Colorado State Patrol’s Vehicular Crimes Unit in Glenwood Springs. The Vehicular Crimes Unit is responsible for investigating fatal and felony crashes throughout the state.
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