In a previous column I covered the importance of driver awareness but a refresher is always good and after observing some drivers over the holiday season I think it is needed. Over the recent Holiday I traveled to see family. On the trip I was amazed to see all the things people were doing while driving. I saw drivers reading books, looking at maps that were spread over the entire dashboard, and one driver was acting like the conductor of an orchestra while leading the family on a sing along. Clearly these people were not paying attention to the road. I understand I may be a more aware of traffic safety because it is my job but everyone on the road needs to questions their actions while driving to determine if they are safe or not. In one hour I also counted 19 people talking on the phone.
While it is legal to be the conductor of a family sing along at 70 MPH it is very unsafe. When I am driving I ask myself “Is this safe”. I question any activity that requires a driver to take my eyes from the road or divert their attention. It may be eating, looking at a map, or trying to find my hands free device. Usually the answer is no. A driver of a vehicle has the responsibility to ensure the safety of not only themselves but others on the road. I don’t think an argument can be made that it is just as safe to read a map while driving at freeway speeds as it would be to pull over and read the map.
These types of safety decisions can only be made by the driver of a vehicle. The consequences for failing to drive safely are often fatal. Sometimes the person who causes an accident by failing to drive in a safe manner survives and others don’t. The possible consequences of driving while distracted are simply not worth it.
In my position as a traffic safety enforcement officer is I have the opportunity to talk to teens in driver educations classes. The point of talking to new drivers is to show them the importance of safety and the dangers they will be facing. Statistically the most dangerous time to drive is in the first two years of having a driver’s license. Parents play an important role in how their children will drive. New drivers typically have sixteen years of experience in watching how their parents drive.
The Woodland Police Department and the Woodland office of the California Highway Patrol are working together to put on “Start Smart” driving education program. This program is aimed at new drivers and those who are about to obtain their driver’s license. The class will cover topics including Collision avoidance, causes of collisions, the responsibilities of drivers, collisions trends, and stories from parents who have lost children in fatal collisions.
The first class will be held on January 13th from 6:30-8:30 PM at the Woodland Police Department, 1000 Lincoln Avenue. Seats are available on a first come first serve basis and space is limited. Each young driver is required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. To reserve a space contact the Woodland California Highway Patrol office at 530-662-4685.
My position allows me to answer questions from the public about traffic safety related issues; parents can contact me at 530-661-7843 if they have concerns about their new drivers. This column can also be viewed and questions submitted through the Woodland Police Department website at www.woodlandpolice.org. Please remember that distracted driving contributes to 4000-8000 collisions every day in the United States.