Don't use cell phones or electronics while behind the wheel.
Don't use cell phones or electronics while behind the wheel.
Don't use cell phones or electronics while behind the wheel.
Don't use cell phones or electronics while behind the wheel.
Don't use cell phones or electronics while behind the wheel.

Sincerely Stefanie: Don't Get Distracted

July 7, 2017
Distracted driving is an epidemic. What are you doing to educate others to practice safe driving?

What are you doing right now? Are you at your desk, at home or in the car? I hope the car isn't your answer, because I would be disappointed.

The commute to and from work every day is pretty routine. I live about 30 to 45 minutes away from the office, depending on traffic. So, it's a decent drive that gives me just enough time to listen to a playlist of my favorite music or a decent talk radio conversation.

During my commute, it's no surprise when I glance over to fellow drivers that the majority of them are texting, looking at their phones or making a call. Some of them are focused on their dashboard controls.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts distracted driving into perspective. Consider this fact: sending or reading a text while driving takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. According to the NHTSA, at 55 mph, that's the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

The simple fact is that no amount of technology, such as self-driving cars, is going to alleviate this issue. Instead, the emphasis must be placed on three simple words: educate, engage and enforce, according to Jeremy Bethancourt, ASSE Safety Professional of the Year and distracted driving advocate. 

While those three words are part of the Drive Smart Arizona public campaign, awareness can begin with safety managers in the workplace. Bethancourt says: "Do not be fooled by believing that distracted driving at work is separate than distracted driving off the job. Peoples' behaviors off the job impact their behavior on the job and those whose job might put them in proximity to a distracted driver."

Safety managers need to make a positive impact on the behavior of their workers to help them understand why they care and why it's important to practice safe driving both at the job site. How can this be completed? Three words: educate, engage and enforce.

"Educate the public on the dangers and how they can and must change their behavior," Bethancourt advises, "Engage with everyone who is impacted or could be impacted by distracted driving, including children, who can be a great influence on modifying parents' bad behavior on the road. And enforce by reaching out with community leaders on ways our drivers might be compelled to improve when education and engagement do not cause improvement."

The bottom line is true of all safety initiatives: taking ownership. Be cognizant of what you're doing while you're driving. Make a playlist; indicate your destination in your navigation or select a radio station before you leave the driveway. Set up an automatic text to send to someone who contacts you while you're on the road. If you're a passenger, don't be afraid to point out distracting behavior. Make a commitment to drive safe during your commute, on the job and while you're out and about after work and during weekends.

n the end, a collective effort is needed to curtail the 3,000 lives lost and 300,000 injured each year because of distracted driving.

"People need to understand they are accountable for their actions where those actions can harm another," Bethancourt says. "Distracted driving is an epidemic which we must address head on."

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