Distracted Driving: an epidemic

There are worse consequences than just a ticket

Totalled motorcycle being loaded onto a trailer after being forced off the road by a distracted driver.

Photo by Hayley Jacobson

Totalled motorcycle being loaded onto a trailer after being forced off the road by a distracted driver.

Story by Hayley Jacobson

Unsafe driving practices plague our society. The evidence of this can be seen by the broken pieces of cars at every intersection, along the highways and the occasional parking lot.

I sit typing this article with a broken hand caused by a distracted driver who, because of the importance they placed on their phone, radio or other devices, forced me off the road into a ditch, totaling the bright red motorcycle my brother had let me borrow for the afternoon.

I am not a careless motorcyclist either. I was wearing all the safety gear: gloves, jeans, closed-toed heavy-duty shoes, a shirt, sweatshirt and a full-face helmet. I knew the rules of the road and I was not going over the speed limit. I also wasn’t riding alone. My dad was driving his Harley just in front of me and watched me wreck into the ditch from his side mirrors.

He watched as the motorcycle hit the gravel as it slid out from under me, flinging me into the grass. He watched it flip tearing up dirt as I limply rolled through the overgrown grass and dirt. I heard him screaming over the Bluetooth in our helmets.

He watched as the car kept driving.

I was lucky. I walked away with only a broken hand, road rash and some bruises. Many are not as lucky as I was.

My story is not near an isolated experience. In Wisconsin alone there are 339 fatalities, to date of writing this, caused by crashes and accidents across the state  according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The break down: 51 are motorcycle drivers, eight bicyclists and 29 pedestrians.

None of these numbers compare to the fatalities occurring from car accidents. At a whopping 187 driver deaths to date from the start of 2019, according to the Wisconsin DMV, the numbers are unacceptable.

In 2017, there were 3,166 vehicular deaths due to distracted driving recorded by the United States Department of Transportation. The majority of crashes involved teenagers and young adult drivers.

That number is comparable to 30 percent of the campus dead due to distracted driving, according to the USDOT.

With all the construction around campus, I implore you, please put the phone down. It is not worth your life or other’s. The scariest part is you may not realize you have hurt someone unless you run into them head-on. If it is a bicyclist, walker or another car trying to dodge you, you may not even know.

It doesn’t always end in death though. Distracted drivers run the risk of not only killing themselves or others, but they could easily end up disabling someone for life. The average mid-size car weighs about 3,497 pounds. Just imagine getting hit when speeding five or ten over down Water Street.

If that’s not enough to dissuade the wayward driver, maybe financial loss will. Many states across the U.S. have laws against texting and driving with some pretty serious ticket prices.

In Wisconsin alone, you may be fined up to $400 dollars for being on your phone while driving, according to drivinglaws.org. In Minnesota, the fine starts out at $50 but goes up to $275 for every time after — according to Minnesota Public Radio — and that’s for just holding your phone if you are driving.

This school year, let’s not be distracted. Let’s keep our eyes up and stay vigilant. For our safety and the safety of everyone else around us let’s pledge to be better drivers.

Jacobson can be reached at [email protected]