Fort McCoy News March 27, 2015

Police: Be aware for Distracted Driving Month

Did you know that "distracted driving" was Webster Dictionary's 2009 "word of the year"? Unfortunately, this is no passing fad. Distracted driving has become a trend with deadly, real consequences.

April is National Distracted Driving Month. The Fort McCoy Police Department would like to remind everyone about the dangers distracted driving can present.

For anyone who thinks they can talk on their phone, text, apply make-up, or perform any other distracting activities while driving, it's time for a crash course in reality.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2012, motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver killed 3,328 people and injured approximately 421,000.

Other facts include:

• Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to be involved in serious crashes, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

• Nine percent of fatal crashes in 2010 were reported as distraction-affected crashes, the NHTSA reported.

• In 2011, NHTSA statistics show, 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group had the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.

While those drivers may sound like just statistics, they're anything but. They could be parents, children, neighbors, and friends from Fort McCoy and the surrounding communities, said Maj. Randall Mcklin, operations major for the Fort McCoy Police Department.

"There are too many sad tales of deaths and injuries that could have been prevented had drivers been paying attention to the road instead of someone or something else," Mcklin said.

Why do so many people participate in these dangerous behaviors? With new technology, driver distractions have risen to unprecedented levels.

"We live in a world where people expect instant, real-time information 24 hours a day, and those desires don't stop just because they get behind the wheel," Mcklin said. "Drivers simply do not realize — or choose to ignore — the danger they create when they take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, and their focus off of driving."

People often say, "I can do two things at once. I've memorized where the numbers are on my phone, so I don't have to look."

They also might say, "Sending or reading one text is pretty quick — that should be OK." They couldn't be more wrong, Mcklin said.

For those people who think they can do two things at once, think about this — according to a study by Carnegie Mellon, driving while using a cellphone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. Can someone really afford to lose that much brainpower? Driving requires a person's full attention and focus in order to keep themself and others safe.

"Yes, this is a national problem, but it also affects us right here in Fort McCoy," Mcklin said. "No one is immune from the dangers of distracted driving. So please remember — one text or call could wreck it all."

As a reminder, on Fort McCoy, vehicle operators shall not use cellphones when the vehicle is moving, unless using a hands-free device (voice only, not texting). Drivers who need to use their cellphones are encouraged to pull into a legal parking spot or to the side of the road. Also, use or wear of any portable headphones, earphones, or listening devices other than for hands-free cellular devices while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited.

For more information about safe driving practices, call the Installation Safety Office at 608-388-3403.

   (Prepared by the Fort McCoy Police Department and Public Affairs Office.)