Opinion

Students relay vital message: Avoid distractions

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Students associated with the Cabell County Substance Abuse Partnership have undertaken some important message campaigns in recent years, getting the word out about the risks associated with alcohol and substance abuse.

Now those students, called the partnership’s youth prevention leaders, have embarked on another important initiative focused on keeping them, their peers and the community at large safe and healthy. This one is called “Be Alert. Just Drive. Save Lives.” It’s focused on avoiding distractions while driving motor vehicles.

It’s a message well worth heeding, and we hope the youth prevention leaders’ peers, as well as adults, pay attention.

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. That includes using a cellphone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers and, obviously, any kind of reading, including referring to maps.

Those activities may seem harmless enough, but they can carry a heavy toll. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 3,300 people were killed in 2012 in what the agency called distraction-affected crashes. In that same year, an estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, a 9 percent increase from 2011, the agency reports.

The safety administration considers text messaging on a cellphone the most alarming distraction because it requires the driver’s visual, manual and cognitive attention. It noted that doing such tasks while driving increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times. Also, someone taking their eyes off the road for the typical five seconds it takes to text is like driving the length of a football field blindfolded when traveling at 55 miles per hour, according to the agency.

That’s one reason why it’s appropriate that young people — who generally are more engaged with cellphones — are working to get the word out about distracted driving. Another reason is that young people also seem more prone to being in fatal crashes…

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