When I found out April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, I reached out to Sgt. Daniel Arrendale of the Gwinnett Police accident investigation unit to share safe driving tips. He said that Gwinnett Police responded to about 30,000 traffic collisions last year and about a third of those involved injuries. Sadly, 57 people died in traffic accidents last year in Gwinnett, including 19 pedestrians.
The accident investigation unit studied 86 collisions in 2018. Of those, 39 involved a suspected impaired driver and 40 listed speed as a possible contributing factor. In the first three months of this year, we’ve already had 19 crashes, 11 of which involved fatalities. Speed and DUI were possible contributing factors in about half.
The key messages are not surprising: don’t drive impaired, wear your seat belt and make sure your kids wear theirs, slow down, and take your hands off that phone.
Most crashes involve minor traffic offenses like following too closely and failing to yield or stay in your lane. This seems to show that inattention or carelessness is a bigger cause than reckless disregard for the law. Years ago, car radios and eating while driving were considered major distractions. We couldn’t have imagined a time when we’d have telephones, cameras, and computers on board.
A series of anti-texting ads say simply: it can wait. And now, just touching a cell phone while driving is illegal in Georgia. The key thing here is patience. We seem to be increasingly impatient, and it shows in our driving. We’re all in a hurry. Go a little faster. Beat that yellow light. Change lanes to avoid that big truck. Don’t need to stop because I don’t see anyone coming. Those thoughts can get you or someone else killed.
Why not take an extra second to check over your shoulder before you change lanes? Or slow down because the light is changing? It will be green again soon. Take an extra look around at a yield or stop sign. Give yourself another few seconds of stopping distance from the car in front of you. It’s easy to be impatient, but that’s also a major cause of crashes.
It goes without saying – almost – that taking the time to click your seat belt can save your life. And make sure your passengers do, too. Make sure the car seat is installed properly and facing the right way for the age and weight of your child.
Obey school bus passing laws and watch for kids and pedestrians at all times, especially when turning. State law says we must always yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk if no other traffic or pedestrian signals are present. People on foot should cross at crosswalks and obey pedestrian signals, but they don’t always do that. Expect the unexpected.
So many variables on the road are outside of your control – weather, traffic conditions, pedestrians, and other drivers – that it’s critical you pay attention to your driving. So be safe out there and remember to slow down.