Last week, I was on my way to work when another car almost side-swiped me out of my lane. I had to have been in their blind spot, I thought, trying to steady my pulse. There’s no way they could have seen me. I chalked it up to a bad rear-view mirror and continued on my way, until the same car began to drift dangerously close to me again. I beeped my horn and merged into another lane to pass them. Are they trying to kill me? I wondered. I shot a glance at the driver’s seat. Who is this person?
I couldn’t tell because their face was pointed down. Staring at their phone.
We’ve heard it time and time again: “Don’t text and drive.” “It can wait.” “Keep your eyes on the road.” We’ve seen the construction signs and impatiently tapped our hands on the wheel as the speed limit dropped to 15 miles slower. We’ve all been busy. We’ve all been running late.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and this week is National Work Zone Awareness Week. With the Fortify Project stretching along one of the busiest sections of I-40/440, driver safety and awareness is even more crucial. Still, not everyone has chosen a hands-free commute, and it’s easy to get distracted on the road. You may be stuck in traffic and decide to text your boss to let them know. You may decide to glance at this weekend’s weather. Your sister may be beating you at Words with Friends. You may think it will only take a second, but more could happen in that second than you realize.
(Warning: video contains graphic content)
For those who might find the above video melodramatic or an exaggeration, listen up: over 25% of all crashes in 2012 can be attributed to distracted driving. An estimated 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 injured in those crashes. In 2010, there were 514 fatal motor vehicle crashes in work zones alone, resulting in 576 fatalities. That equates to one work zone fatality every 15 hours (1.6 a day).
The stats are more than a little sobering, especially when you consider that there are 11.5 miles of the Beltline to rebuild and in May 2013, around 110,000 drivers traveled through the designated Fortify work zone daily. That’s plenty of opportunity for distractions in a situation where every second your eyes are off the road counts against you.
So this month, stay alert and stay safe – not only for you, but for your fellow drivers and the construction workers trying to make our roads better.
Take the National Safety Council pledge to drive cell free. Tweet about it using #DDAM (Distracted Driving Awareness Month). And most importantly, the next time you’re driving and find yourself reaching for your phone…don’t do it.