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Kick Distracted Driving to the Curb

Why distracted driving is a habit you need to quit.

“Texting and driving totally isn’t unsafe. I do it all the time!”
“I can still keep my eyes on the road when I’m on Snapchat.”
“This ticket is garbage. I was just checking the map on my phone!”
“Why would I get TrapTap? I have XYZ app!”

I have heard each of these phrases over the past number of months, and it is worrisome to say the least. Distracted driving (for this post I will focus on cellphone use) has been a growing issue since T9 texting first appeared in the late 90s. The issue has increased due to the size of the cellphone’s user base as well as the nature of our very connected lives. Have we become so obsessed with being constantly connected that we value it above the safety of ourselves and others? Or is it that the ignorance surrounding distracted driving is so high that we do not see it as a danger?

Earlier this year Waze was introduced in our city (we are behind the times; we know). Our Mayor has endorsed the use of the app, which has sparked negative feedback from many individuals and groups in our community. In order to use Waze you have to interact with your phone. I have had friends who have been pulled over for changing a song on their phone.

Distracted driving is now the number one cause of traffic accidents in the United States. Numbers two and three are speeding and drinking and driving. Speeding is the most fatal of the three, though distracted driving is in the top as well. Speeding is not always intentional; many people speed without realizing it, and that is in part due to distracted driving. A lot of us were taught as kids that seatbelts save lives, speeding kills, and to never, ever drink and drive. We must add “stay off your phone” to that list of reminders.

Here are my top two reasons your phone should be in the glovebox/ your pocket/ your purse (never in your hand) while you are driving:

Reason Number One: You are responsible for the safety of your passengers, those around you, and yourself. Please do your part in ensuring everyone gets home safely.

According to a 2015 study from AT&T, 70% of motorists use their smartphones while operating a vehicle. Text and email dominate the list of functions, but using social media while driving is increasing. 17% of drivers will take selfies while driving. While you are driving there is nothing more important than the task at hand: driving. All it takes is a lapse of judgment or a delayed reaction to get into an accident.

Looking at your phone to send a text while driving 55 mph is the same as driving the length of a football field blindfolded. On average it takes you five seconds to reply to a text, so you can do the math. We have more distractions these days, but that doesn’t excuse bad habits. Just because you can order takeout via your smartphone every night doesn’t mean you will (I hope). Think of your mom. Think of your best friend. If something is urgent, pull over.

Reason Number Two: It’s expensive (and increasingly more illegal).

In California, it is now illegal to use your handheld phone while driving. If you are caught using your phone while driving, your first offense includes a $20 ticket and reassessment fees that can total $150. That is low considering the cost of a subsequent offense averages $250. There are better ways you can use your time and money than paying for a distracted driving ticket.

Demerits. Court. Being  sued. The guilt of injuring or killing a person due to a mistake on your part. These are all consequences that can be avoided if you put your phone away and keep your eyes on the road while you are driving.

A question we are frequently asked is, “Why would I get TrapTap when I can just use an app on my phone?” TrapTap is all about safer, ticket-free driving. Our goal is twofold: both are important and tie into one another. In terms of TrapTap, safe driving includes removing distractions and slowing down. Thus, it is possible to avoid traffic tickets altogether. We inform you of potential road hazards without you having to look at your phone screen.

Let’s all work together on making 2017 the year where traffic accidents start to decrease. It will take all of us working diligently to make this goal a reality. Pledge to stay off your phone, slow down, and stay safe!