It only takes a moment — hands off the wheel for just a second, eyes off the road for an instant, mind off driving for the space of a breath.
It’s only a moment, the blink of an eye, but everything can change in a moment of distraction.
In 2010, 3,092 people were killed nationwide in crashes involving a distracted driver and an estimated additional 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. And 18 percent of injury crashes in 2010 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
The numbers are particularly bleak for drivers under 20: Nationwide, 11 percent of young drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of distracted drivers, reports the U.S. Department of Transportation.
To encourage drivers to put down the cellphones, send the text before getting in the car, stop fiddling with the iPod, eat the hamburger later or have that fascinating conversation before turning the ignition, the Grand Junction City Council at its Oct. 17 meeting proclaimed November as Decide to Drive Month, in collaboration with School District 51, St. Mary’s Hospital and Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates.
“It is a very impactful thing when students are talking about it because it’s our perception that students could be a major cause,” said Mike Zamora, outreach coordinator for Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates. “That’s why laws exist how they exist, to encourage kids to be safe.”
“Decide to Drive” is an awareness-building campaign sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, of which Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates is a part. Through education — from health care providers, law enforcement, teachers and students affected by distracted driving — the campaign aims to break bad habits of distracted driving and help students be safer.
Three area students shared their stories of distracted driving:
Last summer I was going down F Road in Clifton. I had just left my girlfriend’s house. We had got into an argument about something that I can’t even remember now. All I remember was that I was going to meet a friend of mine at the mall. As I was approaching the 32 Road intersection I looked down to see I had my iPod with me. I was going to plug it into my radio. When I looked back up, I saw a large white Chevy Suburban right in front of me. I crashed into the passenger side with my Explorer. There was only a driver in the Suburban and she was not hurt. I was not speeding, but because my eyes were not on the road, I didn’t see the car pulling out in front of me. The police officer determined that both of us were at fault.
Palisade High School
I ride my bike all over town. I almost always ride on streets that have a bike lane. Sometimes when I am riding in the bike lane, I notice some of the cars drive very close to me. I try hard not to let them know how I feel with a hand signal. Anyway, one day I was riding with a friend of mine on 15th Street. We were right behind a car that had a bunch of people in it and the driver was driving in the bike lane. I could tell that the passengers in his car were distracting the driver.
Grand Junction High School
I was with my dad and we were pulling out from Hooters after we had lunch. We saw a truck speed past us in the inside lane. He was going at least 50 mph. I noticed that he was talking on his cell phone. We stopped at Radio Shack to look at something my dad wanted to check out. We stayed in the store about five minutes. We got back on North Avenue and as we were approaching 28 Road we saw that there was an accident. It was the same truck that was speeding. The truck had jumped the curb on the right and hit another truck that was parked in a used car lot. Luckily nobody got hurt. Speeding and talking on a cellphone don’t mix.
Grand Junction High School
According to an American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and Harris Interactive survey:
■ Drivers are more likely to report observing distracted behaviors in other drivers than admit engaging in the activity themselves. For instance, 99 percent report seeing other drivers talking on a cellphone and only 61 percent report having done this.
■ Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents said they have seen other drivers grooming themselves, but only one out of five, or 18 percent, report that they have done this.
■ Of the more than 1,500 driving-age adults surveyed, none of them reported their own driving as unsafe. In fact, 83 percent claim to drive safely, yet they believe only 10 percent of other drivers drive “safely.”
■ Although drivers are aware that distracted driving compromises the ability of others to drive safely, one in five report that they are a good enough driver that they can do other things while driving without compromising their driving ability.
■ Among those who self-reported distracted driving behaviors overall, 30- to 44-year-olds seem to be the worst offenders who most frequently admitted to eating or drinking, talking on a cellphone or reaching in the back seat of the car while driving.
■ Many drivers who have experienced a near-accident because of their own distracted driving behavior say they will continue the behavior that caused them to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.
■ The results showed that 94 percent of drivers in America believe that distracted driving is a problem in the U.S. and 89 percent believe it is a problem within their own communities.
■ Drivers report that nearly half of all drivers they encounter on a typical day are distracted.
■ Nine out of 10 drivers say that distracted driving is a very serious or serious problem among teenagers and young adults 20 to 24.
■ Half of all drivers think about their driving before they get behind the wheel.
■ Ninety-six percent of passengers say they sometimes or always mention a distracting behavior to the driver.
■ Four out of five drivers have avoided an accident with another driver who appeared to be distracted while driving.
■ Men are more likely than women to believe they can multitask while driving.