The words “Where U At” will haunt Merry Dye forever. They’re the last ones her 18-year-old daughter Mariah West sent before she was killed while texting and driving on the way to a Springfield Cardinals game.
On May 29, the fifth anniversary of the fatal distracted driving accident, Dye wore her daughter’s picture around her neck as she spoke at a high school event where she encouraged students to pledge not to text and drive, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
She urged students to put their phones in the glove box while they’re driving. “You can’t just go, ‘I pledge and now I have a car.’ You have to have a plan in place,” she said
Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Pace displayed a cellphone as he explained to the students the difficulty of telling people they lost a loved one in a car crash. He spoke of a wreck near Hillcrest High School that claimed the lives of two 17-year-old students and an elderly couple.
In a society consumed with technology, cellphone use is becoming one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. While distractions can also include activities such as eating, grooming and talking to passengers, experts consider cellphone use to be the biggest problem because it takes a driver’s hands, eyes and attention away from the road.
Consider these statistics from textinganddrivingsafety.com:
- Nearly one in four car crashes in 2011 involved cellphones, a total of 1.3 million wrecks.
- When you text and drive, your attention is diverted from the road for five seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, you can drive the length of a football field without looking at the road.
- Sending and receiving text messages makes drivers 23 times more likely to crash.
- Dialing increases the risk of crashing by 2.8 times; talking and listening 1.3 times; and reaching for a device 1.4 times.
- Thirteen percent of drivers 18 to 20 years old involved in accidents admit they were texting or talking on a cellphone when they crashed.
- With 82 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds owning cellphones, 34 percent admit to texting and driving while more than half say they’ve talked on the phone while driving.
Even though teens who text and drive spend 10 percent of time outside of their driving lane, most don’t think cellphone use is distracting. In fact, 77 percent are somewhat confident they can text and drive safely, and 55 percent of young adult drivers say it’s easy to text and drive.
They apparently learn these bad habits from adults. Nearly half say they’ve seen their parents drive and talk on the phone, and 15 percent say they’ve seen their parents text and drive. Nearly half of children ages 12 to 17 have been passengers in a car with a driver who was texting, and 27 percent of adults have sent or received texts while they were driving.
This is a national epidemic that requires action on the part of parents and teens.
Merry Dye’s message should be taken to heart by young and experienced drivers alike. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes and attention on the road. The text message can wait, or you might not reach your destination.