April designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Distracted driving the new DUI 

“When I started at the sheriff’s office in 1985, I never imagined I would see a national observance of a Distracted Driving Awareness Month,” said Morrison County Chief Deputy Tom Ploof. “How could I have imagined it? In 1985, distracted driving wasn’t involved in 80 percent of the crashes and 65 percent of the near crashes. Cell phone use wasn’t the number one cause of driver distraction. Cell phones were practically unheard of.”

“It seems that distracted driving is the new DUI,” he said.

Driving distractions include radio and CD programming, putting on make-up, vehicle controls, passengers, programming GPS systems, eating, smoking and fatigue, but the most prevalent cause is cell phone use. “Any time you don’t have two hands on the wheel and your focus on driving, you are driving distracted,” Ploof said.

Laws are slowly catching up with technology making it illegal to text while driving or parked in traffic. Cell phone use is totally banned for school bus drivers and permit and provisionally licensed drivers.

Ploof said laws help, but too many drivers simply roll the dice and continue texting and needlessly using their cell phones while driving.

“A person would be devastated if one of their loved ones was killed because of distracted driving,” said Ploof. “What a pity,’ ‘How senseless and unnecessary a death,’ are words so often heard and yet it has become a national pastime for drivers to spend their commute time talking on their cell phones or texting.”

“During this Distracted Driving Awareness month, I ask each driver to eliminate distractions, keep two hands on the wheel, and your focus on driving,” he said.