EPD gives big thumbs-down to texting while driving

Published 8:52 am Friday, April 17, 2015

File Photo Many local traffic accidents are caused by drivers using cell phones, police say.

File Photo
Many local traffic accidents are caused by drivers using cell phones, police say.

Local and state police are asking drivers to give a thumbs-down to distracted driving.

The month of April is nationally recognized as Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the Elizabethton Police Department will work with the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office to promote a new safety campaign: Thumbs Down to Texting and Driving. While many people thing of younger drivers when the subject of texting while driving comes up, EPD Cpl. Doug Combs said the problem is not limited to a specific age group. “It’s everybody,” he said. “Everyone has a cell phone, and everyone uses it.”

Combs is assigned to the police department’s traffic division and as part of his duties, he regularly investigates motor vehicle accidents, many of which are caused by distracted drivers he said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“People have a wreck and when you talk to them and ask what happened, they say, ‘Well, I was texting,’ or ‘I got a text and was checking it,’ ” Combs said. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of traffic crashes, he said.

The Centers for Disease Control break distracted driving down into three categories: visual, manual and cognitive. Visual is a driver taking his eyes off the road, manual distraction involves a driver taking his hands off the wheel, and cognitive distraction happens when a driver takes his mind off of driving.

Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, eating or using in-vehicle technologies such as a navigation system or radio. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction. While all forms of distracted driving can be dangerous, the awareness campaign by the Governor’s Highway Safety Office and local law enforcement agencies focuses on texting and driving because it combines all three types of distractions.

“Texting and driving requires motorists to take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and minds off the task of driving,” Workman said. “It creates the proverbial ‘perfect storm’ for a crash, and no one has the right to put another person’s life at risk like that.”

Not only is texting while driving dangerous, it is also illegal in Tennessee. Texting and driving can result in a $50 fine for a driver of any age. For young drivers who have learner’s permits or intermediate restricted licenses, cell phone use of any kind while driving is illegal.

“Texting while driving is illegal and irresponsible,” Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole said. “We are hoping that by highlighting one negative behavior, Tennesseans will recognize the need to stop all behaviors that take their focus off of driving.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day in the United States more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

The Governor’s Highway Safety Office said preliminary data reveals that in 2014, Tennessee experienced its highest number of known distracted driving crashes at 21,021. In those crashes, 8,602 people were injured and 48 people were killed.