Local authorities warn about distracted driving

2014-04-23T06:15:00Z 2014-04-23T08:11:17Z Local authorities warn about distracted drivingBy Aaron Hegarty/School-to-Career intern Fremont Tribune

April is distracted driving awareness month, and Fremont isn’t exempt from the problem, local authorities said.

“As electronic devices become more and more in use, it becomes more and more an issue,” said Lt. Kurt Bottorff of the Fremont Police Department.

The National Safety Council said 1.6 million accidents nationwide -- 25 percent of all accidents -- involve distracted driving caused by cell phones and texting.

Bottorff added the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 25 percent of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive. Social networks have also had an impact on the progression of distracted driving, he said.

“It’s progressing because of electronics and social networking,” Bottorff said. “You have Snapchat, Twitter and all these other social networks out there with people communicating all the time. It’s unfortunate that a lot of the time that’s when they are driving.”

Stephanie Gardeman of the Three Rivers District Health Department said distracted driving is a problem everywhere, including Fremont.

“Even in Fremont, drivers are seen day in and day out using their cell phones behind the wheel,” Gardeman said. “I feel that young drivers think they are invincible. The terrifying reality of the situation is that it can happen to anyone; anyone is capable of ‘wrecking it all’ due to one text or phone call.”

Three Rivers officials said to “stop using cell phones while driving, recognize that hands-free devices offer no safety benefit, and understand the dangers of cognitive distraction to the brain.”

“Every single time you take your eyes off the road or talk on the phone while you’re driving -- even for just a few seconds -- you put yourself and others in danger,” former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said. “Yet, people continue to assume that they can drive and text or talk at the same time.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 3,328 people were killed due to distracted driving in 2012, and 421,000 people were injured.

“People have to understand when they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, it’s a huge responsibility; it’s a huge liability, and their number one focus should be on driving,” Bottorff said. “Safety is in the best interest of everybody.”

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