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Essay

Distracted driving kills

By David Yenches

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As Jim Morrison of The Doors sang, "Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel." This is truer than ever these days.

Living now in Washington state in a small city, my wife and I find that speeding, tailgating and distracted driving are more common than we remember as kids growing up in the USA. The main reason is distracted driving due to handheld devices.

Our state is now on track to pass a law banning the use of all handheld devices when driving. It’s tentatively called the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act. In the first two weeks of April, the state spent $400,000 (yen44 million) from the federal government to pay for an extra 6,000 enforcement hours to check for distracted drivers. One-third of the road deaths in the state in 2015 were due to distracted driving, according to the Washington Transportation Safety Commission.

Some new cars have systems that can automatically stop to avoid a crash or let you know when you accidentally drift across lanes. But, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission says, "Until there are driver-free cars, pay attention to the road."

Even hands-free audio and video can be distracting and cause accidents or deaths, regardless of whether you are on your mobile or texting.

Studies show that a driver talking on a cellphone drives as badly as if they had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent. A driver texting is like having a BAC of 0.16 percent.

You may have read of the truck driver who was playing Pokemon Go when he hit and killed a 9-year-old boy on a pedestrian crossing in Aichi Prefecture. Here in Washington state, a highway construction flagger was killed by a texting driver. The truck driver in Japan got three years in prison. The driver in my state pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, which could mean up to 20 months in jail.

In the USA, talking on a mobile phone while driving is only banned in 14 states, but texting while driving is banned in 46 of the 50 states.

People used to say that driving one-handed was the source of the problem, but it now looks like the source of the problem goes deeper. I teach a lot of students remotely in the Middle East. When I see them driving while chatting to me, the first thing I say is, "Pull over and stop!"

When we lived in Tokyo, the U.S. military radio often ran a public service spot on distracted driving. The front-seat passenger would tell the driver to turn off his phone, informing him how many people were killed by distracted driving, and adding, "I’m not trying to be one of them!" Exactly!

わき見運転は人を殺す

携帯機器の普及により、運転中に電話やメールをする人が増えた。それにより、不注意運転が原因の事故が増加しているという。筆者の住むワシントンではどのような措置が取られているのだろうか?

The Japan Times ST: April 28, 2017

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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2017年9月22日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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