Distracted Driving Causing Problems on Roadways

By: Tim Elliott Email
By: Tim Elliott Email

There's a statewide push to ban forms of distracted driving.

But state leaders are struggling to define the practice and how to enforce such laws.

Thursday, a group of state and federal officials met in Birmingham to discuss the growing problem.

In the nation's first statewide summit on the issue, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation characterized distracted driving as quote "an epidemic."

Driving while distracted isn't a good idea.

“It's hard enough just driving a vehicle period,” said Officer Thomas Davis with the Dothan Police Department.

Local law enforcement is voicing their support for laws banning the practice.

“Distracted driving is actually not paying attention to what you're supposed to be paying attention to while you're on the road,” said Davis.

But defining distracted driving isn't that easy.

“Distracted driving falls underneath a broad category you've got so many things that could take your attention,” said Alabama State Trooper Kevin Cook.

“Distracted driving is sloppy driving. When a driver is occupied with eating, fumbling with the radio, texting, using a cell phone, eating, putting on make up, and reaching for something in the back seat instead of focusing on the task of driving,” said Alabama State Trooper Charles Dysart.

“You could be driving and day dreaming and that could cause a problem because you're not paying attention,” said Davis.

Thursday, state and federal highway officials gathered in Birmingham to brainstorm ways to keep motorists' eyes and minds on the road.

"Driving is a full time task. You’re putting your life and others at risk when you're driving and being distracted,” said Dysart.

“Stay focused, and pay attention, keep your hands on the steering wheel all 100% attention at all times,” added Cook.

But in the state of Alabama, there are no laws preventing any form of distractive driving.

All authorities can do now is educate the public about the danger the practice poses.

“What we're trying to do is try to curtail these accidents these serious accidents where fatalities and serious injuries are taking place with distracted driving,” said Cook.

Currently, 19 states have laws against texting while driving.

Alabama state lawmakers attempted to pass a similar law in 2007, it failed, but they will try again in the upcoming legislative session.

In the meantime, authorities say in order to prevent accidents, they look for violations resulting from distracted driving, such as swerving and weaving in and out of traffic.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to get into serious accidents and injure themselves.

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