According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) distracted driving (including cell phone use) is a major contributor to automobile crashes. Every day in the U.S. between 4,000 and 8,000 crashes occur related to distracted driving.
The issue of distracted driving becomes even more pertinent today because of increased incidents of “Driving While Texting (DWT). According to a Nationwide Insurance Study, an estimated 20% of drivers are sending or receiving text messages while behind the wheel. Researchers are noting a dangerous trend as this statistic jumps alarmingly to 66% among young people ages 18-24.
Sheriff Couvillon wants to ensure that all drivers know the laws regarding cell phone use while driving. Louisiana is currently one of five states that have banned text-messaging while driving. New Louisiana laws also prohibit drivers with learner’s permits from talking on the cell phone while driving unless they are using a hands free device. If a driver is in an accident at the time of the violation, the fines are doubled.
Sheriff Couvillon does not discount the fact that cell phones act as lifesaving tools in emergency situations. About 290,000 emergency calls are made everyday from wireless devices. “But there is a time and a place for text messaging, and when you’re driving is not one of them,” advises Sheriff Couvillon.
“As the use of cell phones continues to sky-rocket,” the Sheriff continued, “it’s best to recognize that certain safety factors can mean the difference between life and death in cell phone use when driving.”
To make your driving and cell phone use experience a little safer, Sheriff Couvillon offers the following safety tips:
Obey the law. Don’t text and drive while you’re behind the wheel.
Before you get behind the wheel, get to know your phone’s features, such as speed dial and redial. Use a hands free device when possible.
Assess the traffic and dial sensibly. Ask your passenger to dial for you, or make calls when you are not moving.
Never read or write while the car is moving. If you must write a note or take down a phone number during a conversation, PULL OVER!
Be careful when pulling over to place calls. To avoid being a crime victim, don’t stop in dangerous areas and keep your car doors locked.
Position your phone within easy reach or let your voice mail answer rather that taking your eyes off the road to look for the phone.
Let the person you are speaking to know you are driving.
Do not engage in emotional conversations as you will be focused primarily on the call rather than your driving.
Always disconnect your cell phone when using jumper cables and do not use a cell phone while pumping gas.
Dial 911 to report an emergency-it’s free from your wireless phone.
The Sheriff reminds us to use our cell phone when valuable seconds count toward reducing emergency response time. Make sure 911 is programmed into your phone’s memory should you need to report an accident or other emergency. Dial 9-1-1 for emergencies and be prepared to give your exact location, nature of the emergency and your name and cellular number including the area code.
Sheriff Mike Couvillon concludes, “Remember these simple rules when driving and talking. Make cellular safety your most important call.”