Consider This: Distracted Drivers

Every year the report is the same. Southeastern North Carolina has one of the highest accident rates in the state. We rank high in the number of accidents per capita, the number of collisions involving property damage, and the number of injuries per mile driven. Why is that? Is it the growing number of cars on our dated streets and highways? Is it speeding, or driving under the influence, or just plain driver carelessness?

We think it's all of those things and distracted drivers. Here's one of the culprits. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, a group that studies the interaction between humans and machines, reports that cell phone distraction now causes 2600 traffic deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States each year.

But cell phones aren't the only distraction these days. There are radar detectors, on-board DVD players, navigation systems, PDAs, satellite radios and, as I observed less than a mile from the station one recent lunch hour, some people can't limit their TV viewing to their homes!

According to a study this year by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute almost 80% of all car crashes and 65% of near-crashes involve some sort of driver inattention within three seconds of the incident. What's the most common distraction? Once again, it's the cell phone.

So, while our cars are becoming safer, drivers are not. It's up to each of us to buckle up, drive sober, stop speeding and tailgating, avoid cell phone use while driving, and pay attention to the road. If we all did that, there would be fewer accidents and you'd be a lot happier when you received your next car insurance bill.

That's what we think. Tell us what you think.