EPD gives ‘Thumbs Down’ to texting and driving

Published 5:51 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2017

If you text while driving, you could look up from your phone to see blue lights in your rearview mirror.

The Elizabethton Police Department is partnering with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office (THSO) to promote the third annual Thumbs Down to Texting and Driving campaign during the month of April, which is nationally recognized as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

The EPD and other agencies taking part in the campaign will promote safe driving habits while also ramping up enforcement when it comes to distracted drivers. Throughout the month, the THSO will use the #ThumbsDownTN to promote the campaign through social media platforms.

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Here locally, drivers texting while operating a vehicle is a growing problem according to EPD Major Shannon Peters.

“We have seen more and more of it,” Peters said. “We are aware of it, we are watching for it, and we are trying to curtail it.”

Statewide, preliminary data reveals that in 2016 Tennessee experienced its highest number of known distracted-driving crashes at 24,743. According to the THSO, these accidents resulted in the deaths of 58 people.

Across the state, an average of 28 people are injured each day in a collision caused by a distracted driver, according to the THSO. Nearly 12 percent of all crashes statewide last year were caused by someone who was driving distracted.

Drivers who text while driving, no matter what their age, can face a fine of $50. For young drivers who have Learner’s Permits or Intermediate Restricted licenses cell phone use of any kind while driving is illegal.

“Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting,” said Vic Donoho, Director of the THSO. “At 55 miles per hour, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field.”

“Every distracted-driving crash is preventable,” Donoho added. “We as Tennesseans need to stay focused while driving, because it could be a matter of life or death.”

For more information, or to learn more about texting and driving, the THSO invites people to check out the website www.tntrafficsafety.org.