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Pay attention to the road, not the phone

Published 9:12am Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It’s not often I’m able to ride in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle. I’m usually driving and my attention is on the road. But I was a passenger last weekend when my husband and I traveled to watch our son play in a baseball tournament in Monroeville.

On the way back we noticed a disturbance just ahead of us on I-65 as a big rig slowed and switched to a different lane. Once the truck changed lanes we were able to see the source of the chaos.

A rather large SUV was swerving across both lanes, travelling incredibly slow for the Interstate. Quite frankly we thought it was someone driving while under the influence.  The truck changed lanes simply to prevent this SUV from crashing into the side of his truck.

Several vehicles slowed, obviously afraid to attempt to pass someone driving so recklessly and dangerously in heavy late afternoon traffic. My husband made the wise decision to pass the swerving vehicle (that’s a different column topic for another time). As he quickly passed I peered over and the driver was definitely under the influence – under the influence of a cell phone. SHE WAS TEXTING!

I was furious! Not only was she endangering her own life and those in her vehicle but everyone else on the road. Alabama passed a law Aug. 1, 2012 that banned texting while driving. I’m not coordinated enough to attempt to text and drive, but have you noticed the number of drivers on the road who DO attempt it?

I started to pay attention. Every vehicle we passed, I stared in their windows to see if they were under the influence of a cell phone too. Some were driving carefully other than to glance nervously at the crazy blonde lady who was staring intently into their vehicles.

From the Greenville exit on I-65 North all the way into Wetumpka, we passed seven drivers who were texting. We passed several who were talking on their cell phones but SEVEN drivers were only partially paying attention to the road.

Distracted driving doubles or triples your reaction time according to some of the studies I have found. Imagine a traffic light suddenly changing as you approach or a small child running in front of your car. Imagine your reaction time while you are paying attention or unimpaired. Now, imagine that reaction time doubled or tripled. Obviously, you’re dealing with near-fatal or fatal results.

It’s a big deal and a big problem. Please do not drive while distracted. There is nothing more important that arriving safely.

Shannon Elliott is general manager of the Elmore County newspapers of Tallapoosa Publishers Inc. Contact her at 334-567-7811. 

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