BLACKFOOT– Tuesday's meeting with the Rotary, had Officer Greg Austin from the Blackfoot Police department discussing distracted driving. Most drivers today have only had education about distracted drying, while in Drivers Ed. The impacts of distracted driving is very apparent. Car crashes, deaths, and property damage are just a few of the impacts.
Officer Austin has been a part of the police department for around 25 years and has seen numerous accidents and deaths to scare him. One of the hardest things he has dealt with, over the years, is when teaching driver safety and showing the videos to teenage students. Many of the kids, who have seen these videos who have said, "Who cares about that, I would be dead." Officer Austin has found that scare tactics don't work as well as they used to when teaching others about distracted driving.
The program "Alive at 25" is to help reduce automobile crashes among teens and their passengers. Research has shown that young driver accidents involve a mixture of different factors: lack of awareness to consequences of risk taking behavior, inexperience with complexities of driving, peers in vehicle with the youthful driver, driving as a social activity, impaired driving due to road conditions (including driving at night), speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The program has helped over 400,000 young adults learn life saving defensive driving skills. A study conducted by Colorado State Patrol in 2003, of 1000 graduates found that 89% of the students indicated they believed they would be a safer driver as a result of the class and 92% believed it helped them improve their driving knowledge and skills. It teaches young adults that people in their age group are more likely to be hurt or killed in a vehicle crash. Inexperience, distraction and peer pressure causes unique driving hazards. Speeding, alcohol, and party drugs greatly increase their risk of injury or death. As a driver, or passenger, they can reduce their risk by taking control. Committing to changing their driving behavior makes personal, legal, and financial sense.
Officer Austin explained that driving uses three major parts of the body including manual, visual, and cognitive. To be considered a distracted driver is getting rid of one of these parts. A cell phone uses all three aspects when trying to drive and operate a phone. Many Southeast Idaho municipalities have "hands free" laws to remove the manual distraction from the driving factors. It doesn't remove it completely, but it helps remove part of the distraction.
Officer Austin offered some real world experience to younger drivers. They created an obstacle course for an adult tricycle. The students were given a chance to drive through the course without distraction. Then the driver is sent a text and must drive, but also read the text then tell Officer Austin what the text was about. This showed the students how much of a distraction phones can be. But afterwards they found that 78% of teens likely won't drive and text if their friends tell them not to. 44% said they would be thankful if someone complained to them about them texting and driving. 90% also stated they would stop if their friends told them not to text and drive. These sobering facts definitely made one think about being a distracted driver.