Jackson Township Spotlight: Distracted driving taking toll on people's lives

Jason Burley
Jackson Township Fire Department

An automobile accident can be one of the most tragic events in someone’s life. Some accidents are minor, but many are fatal and change the lives of so many.

I have seen many changes with the motor-vehicle accidents we respond to throughout the years. The automobiles are being built with many more safety features, such as airbags, reinforced steel and warning systems, for example. All these safety features are great and have saved many lives. But nearly 37,000 people a year die in the United States from motor-vehicle accidents even with these safety features.

Jason Burley

Roughly 3,000 of these deaths are caused from distracted drivers.

There are three main types of distraction:

• Visual: taking your eyes off the road

• Manual: taking your hands off the wheel

• Cognitive: taking your mind off driving

The use of cellular devices while driving is the No. 1 reason for distracted driving. You see more and more people driving with their phones in their hands. They can be texting, searching the internet, looking at a map, looking at a social-media app or making a phone call. All these activities cause distracted driving and increase your chance of being involved in an automobile accident.

Newer vehicles are built with more soundproofing. If someone in another car is trying to alarm you by honking their horn, you might not hear it, and you will not see the imminent danger if you are distracted. This also is the case for emergency vehicles responding to an emergency. It is becoming more challenging for emergency-response vehicles to respond safely to calls with all the distracted drivers on the road.

What can we do to help prevent distracted drivers? For starters, the state of Ohio and many other states have passed laws to combat distracted driving.

Ohio laws and administrative rules

Ohio law states that no person shall drive a motor vehicle, trackless trolley or streetcar on any street, highway or property open to the public for vehicular traffic while using a handheld electronic wireless communications device to write, send or read a text-based communication. If you are caught doing any of these, you could face fines or infractions on your record.

Probably the first thing you can do is set the example and do not drive distracted. This especially applies to parents. If your children see you looking at your phone while driving, the chances that they are going to do the same are high.

If you are a passenger in a vehicle and the driver is looking at a phone or is distracted by something else, remind him or her how dangerous it is.

Talk to your teenager or young adult about the rules and responsibilities involved in driving. Share stories and statistics related to teen/young adult drivers and distracted driving.

• Remind them driving is a skill that requires a driver’s full attention.

• Emphasize that texts and phone calls can wait until arriving at a destination.

• Set consequences for your teenagers if they are caught driving distracted.

Motor-vehicle accidents are very tragic and at times can be fatal. They can affect so many lives, but we can reduce the amount of accidents on the roadways and reduce the number of motor vehicle deaths if we all do our part and work together.

Jason Burley is a battalion chief with the Jackson Township Fire Department who has served more than 25 years and can be reached at 614-991-6853.