The increase of technology in day-to-day lives has led to an increase in distracted driving.  Click to hear KMZU’s Sarah Scott speak with Highway Patrol Sergeant Brent Bernhardt:

Brent Bernhardt

Bernhardt said now that cell phone usage is embedded in day-to-day living, distracted driving has become the number one killer of teens and young adults.  153 people were killed because of distracted driving in 2011, and more than 10,000 were injured.

Bernhardt warns that activities such as checking text messages takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average 4.6 seconds, which is enough to travel the length of an entire football field.

Press Release from the Missouri State Highway Patrol

I am one of those people who love to travel. It doesn’t matter if I’m driving for a few minutes or several hours, I just relax and enjoy the drive. During my journeys I have observed odd tasks that drivers try to perform while simultaneously operating their vehicle. I have observed people text messaging, talking on the phone, putting on makeup, reading, and putting in contact lenses. Secondary activities have become an everyday occurrence for American motorists. A growing shift in focus from the roadway to a multitude of other tasks impairs the ability of modern drivers. Even though research shows that certain influences (such as drowsiness or conversation) cause greater impairment than driving drunk, over 7 million people believe that their focus is unaffected by these behaviors.

Over the last several years, technology has imbedded itself into our everyday lives. Can you remember the last time you forgot your cell phone at home and left for work? Did it cause you distress, wondering how you could ever make it through the day without your phone? Fifteen to 20 years ago, this was unheard of. Today, it is the norm. The younger generation has grown up in this ever-advancing technological era and has never experienced a time without cell phones. Because cell phones have become such a part of our everyday lives, distracted driving is now the number one killer of American teens and young adults.

Distracted driving among motorists has become an epidemic. In the state of Missouri alone, in 2011, distracted driving killed 153 people and injured 10,017. Distraction affected crashes are preventable. Distracted driving does not just happen, it is a choice. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. An equivalent is driving 55 mph for the length of an entire football field, blind. Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.

As generations age and technology advances, the number of Americans using electronic devices while driving will continue to grow, as will the number of vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving. Working together, all of us can help reduce driver distraction, and save lives and prevent injuries. While some progress has been made to educate the youth in the fight to end distracted driving, they aren’t the only drivers who are distracted. There is much more to be done to help end this dangerous practice. It’s clear the problem is complex and the solution requires parents, teens, educators, employers, and the government to get involved. Still, the first line of defense against this risky behavior must be personal responsibility by all drivers to put their wireless devices away and keep their focus on the road.