We Save Lives gives our first We Save Lives Highway 3D Badge of Courage to Governor Dannel P. Malloy of Connecticut who signed legislation that would make it more difficult for distracted drivers to continue their deadly behavior.
Governor Malloy has put Connecticut in the forefront of the “get tough on distracted drivers” movement. He not only increased the fines for texting and talking while driving but he banned cell phone use in the car WHILE THE MOTOR IS RUNNING. Connecticut was already one of the 11 states who banned cell phone use while driving but they have taken it one step further. Now, you can’t use your cell phone while driving and you can’t use it while you are stationary as long as you are behind the wheel and the motor is running. So if you are stopped at a light, stop sign, waiting for traffic, sitting at a crosswalk, don’t pick up that cell phone! Wait until you get to your destination and the ENGINE IS TURNED OFF.
The fines now stand at $125.00 for a first offense, $250.00 for a second and $400.00 for a third. Once the laws take effect October 1st, of this year, the fines will be $150.00 for a first, $300.00 for a second and $500.00 for a third offense.
Despite passing tougher bans on cell phone usage in the car, Connecticut still had a problem with their drivers, who believed that using a cell phone while driving was not dangerous despite the statistics and the tragedies that show otherwise.
According to the Office of Legislative Research, Connecticut drivers violated the ban approximately 34,000 times a year between 2007 and 2009. Obviously more was needed and Connecticut’s legislators took action by increasing the fines and the ban on cell use in cars. They also created a point system for distracted driving offenses that can affect their car insurance. They didn’t stop there, they also formed a task force to deal with the problem and, as part of Public Act 13-277 (Distracted Driving bill), DMV will now be mandated starting Oct. 1, 2013 to have at least one question on distracted driving on the written test.
Connecticut decided to go several steps further, thanks in large part to two very determined young women who suffered the ultimate tragedy when their loved ones were killed by a distracted driver. Dawn Jeffrey’s boyfriend, Kenneth Dorsey, was killed on March 24th, 2012 by a distracted teenager who hit him with her SUV while he was jogging. The 16-year-old girl was using her cell phone to access her school’s website! Prior to that, she had been talking on the phone for six minutes and 15 seconds to her mother. Ken was thrown in the air with such force that his sneakers flew off his feet. He suffered fractures to his spine, in addition to multiple fractures of his head and skull. He never regained consciousness.
Dawn took this cause to heart, writing letters to the editor, meeting with Connecticut driving schools and testifying in favor of tougher distracted driving legislation including the recently passed bill. She is now a successful advocate against distracted driving. When she learned that the We Save Lives Highway Safety Award was going to Governor Malloy, she stated, “I am so proud of the State of Connecticut for being progressive in bringing distracted driving to the forefront and treating it as an important issue. Ken’s death was preventable. It was unnecessary and it was devastating. When testifying I implored Connecticut’s legislative body to think of their child, themselves, or their best friend to be as much at risk as Ken was in preventing these senseless deaths. It’s an unbelievable feeling to know they listened.”
On July 21, 2012, Drinda Carey and her significant other, Douglas C. Chouinard, were out riding on their motorcycles, when a distracted 18 year old driver, crossed into their lane of traffic and hit them both. Drinda was taken to the hospital and survived but Doug died later that night. The young driver was lucky. He lived and for killing one person and injuring another, his sentence was suspended and he was ordered to 100 hours of community service speaking out against distracted driving. I hope he is and I hope people are taking him very seriously. Drinda like Dawn channeled her anger and grief into changing the laws in Connecticut. Both women were successful and I hope the people in Connecticut realize how fortunate they are to have had two such determined women on their behalf. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.
Despite increased attention to this issue, distracted driving killed approximately, 3,331 people in 2011, an increase from the year before. In that same year, more than 380,000 people were injured. That means that each day, 9 people are killed and more than a 1,000 men, women and children are injured, just from distracted driving. What has happened to common sense? According to NHTSA, “At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.”
Do we really need to communicate every single minute of every single day?
Although there all types of distractions, such as putting on makeup, eating, fiddling with music players, playing words with friends, lighting up cigarettes, or anything that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off of driving, Cell phone use is of the most concern especially among our youth.
Unfortunately, our young people seem to be some of the worst offenders. In a NHTSA telephone survey of 6,000 drivers, 18 and older, “ Young drivers 18 to 20 report the highest level of phone involvement (13%) at the time of a crash or near-crash; 8% said they were sending a text or e-mail, 3% were reading a text or e-mail, and 2% said they were talking on a cell phone.” Somehow this doesn’t make me feel good about driving on the road. Add in the drunk and drugged drivers and you have a pretty lethal environment.
Currently, almost every state has some kind of a ban on cell use, either for novice drivers or for everyone. Florida, where We Save Lives is based, just passed their legislation after years of useless debate and it is probably one of the weakest if not the weakest legislation in the states that have addressed this issue. (See The Weaknesses with Florida’s legislation to Ban Texting and Driving)
When I first started advocating for tougher laws for drunk driving, the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was attitude and the old adage, “there but for the grace of God go I”, whenever someone saw a drunk driver. Everyone drank and drove from Governors, legislators, district attorneys, on down. I am sure even Presidents did! We had to work hard to change that attitude. Instead of “there but for the grace of God go I”, when they looked at the drunk driver, we wanted them to say and think, “there but for the grace of God, go my child, my spouse, my parent,” when they looked at the victims. It seems we have the same problem with distracted driving. Everyone does it. My friends do it, despite my bombarding them with the latest studies that come from NHTSA, Triple A and the like. When they call, I always ask, “are you driving while talking to me” and if they answer “yes,” I tell them to “call me when they get to their destination”. As important as I like to think I am, a phone call with me is not worth someone’s life. Now most of them don’t call me when they are driving and we have all managed to survive.
The first thing parents should do when they give their son or daughter a cellphone is sit them down and discuss the dangers of distracted driving. Talk about sanctions if you learn they are exhibiting this behavior. Take away the phone, if necessary or put an app on it that keeps them from using the phone while driving. There are several available. Take away the car if they simply don’t learn.
Be an example. Don’t you use the phone while driving and don’t call them from the phone while you are behind the wheel. Ask your teenager if they are driving when they call. Ask them to include on their signature “sent from my Iphone, but not while driving.” Put the same or similar signature on yours. Post a note in the car to remind THEM not to text and drive when they get in the car. Let them know you love them. Tell them not to call their friends when they know they are on the road and to ask anyone who calls if they are in the car when they are calling and if so, hang up. They will get the hint. My friends did. They may not have stopped using their cell phone and driving but at least I won’t be an accessory to a crash. Discourage hands free technology. According to recent studies, it too can be dangerous. Again, let them know you love them and this “lecture” comes from wanting to keep them alive.
We Save Lives congratulates the state of Connecticut for taking a leadership role in ensuring that distracted driving becomes as socially unacceptable as drunk driving is now. We applaud Governor Malloy, and Rep. Scribner, along with his fellow Representatives, Fred Camillo and Anthony Guerrera, co-chair of Transportation committee for initiating this legislation. Hopefully, more states will follow.