An Epidemic of Distracted Driving

A friend of mine from out of state who recently visited California was surprised to see so many road signs warning against texting while driving. Sure, that’s a bad idea, he thought, but he didn’t think it occurs very often.

Then, in a period of a few weeks, three times he had to swerve to avoid hitting another car that had drifted in front of him while traveling full speed on a highway. In each case he pulled up alongside the motorist and saw that they were texting while going 65-70 mph.

Is there anyone among us who hasn’t witnessed someone texting behind the wheel? Or combing hair or putting on makeup using the rear view mirror? Or engaging in an animated cell phone conversation? Or eating while driving? (Okay, I suppose most of us occasionally munch on a burger or sandwich while behind the wheel, but that same friend recently told me of seeing a young lady steering with her knees while she consumed what looked like a bowl of cereal in her lap during a morning commute!)

I don’t think Californians are necessarily worse than folks in other parts of the country when it comes to distracted driving. We probably just witness more episodes because we are so car-dependent and put on more mileage than people from most other parts of the country. In any case, it sure does seem like there’s an epidemic of dangerous, distracted driving on our roadways.

Studies have shown that talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel is just as dangerous as driving while drunk. I haven’t heard of similar studies related to texting, primping and other distractions, but I would guess these activities are even more hazardous than driving under the influence.

It’s a serious problem, and one we at Dutton Plumbing pay attention to, because our technicians sometimes drive hundreds of miles a day in the course of serving our customers. Before we hire someone whose job will require driving a vehicle, we do background checks of his/her driving record with the Department of Motor Vehicles. A past filled with DUIs or excessive moving violations will likely disqualify that person from employment.

We also strictly forbid anyone from using a handheld cell phone while driving, and certainly will not tolerate texting or any other unsafe distractions behind the wheel. A central GPS system at our headquarters keeps track of where all Dutton service vehicles are at all times, and will record when a vehicle exceeds a speed limit. We address safe driving in our ongoing training sessions and will take someone off the road if we find out that person has violated safe driving practices.

Besides being concerned for the well-being of our employees and other motorists, we have a vested business interest in driving safely. A safe driving record holds down our insurance costs. Also, our brightly decorated service trucks are hard to miss on the road. We want people to notice us, but we also realize that our company’s reputation would take a severe hit if anyone saw one of our drivers behaving recklessly.

Knock on wood, we’ve never had such a report, mainly because we put so much emphasis on workplace safety on the road and while on the job in your home. But I have a favor to ask of you.

We will continue to do our part to assure that the people behind the steering wheel of our vehicles drive safely and courteously. I am asking all of you to do the same.

Just as we would feel devastated if any of our drivers caused an accident resulting in death or injury, we would feel just as bad if one of our team got hurt by a distracted driver. Our drivers have families and friends just like you do. Please do your part to protect them and all other motorists when you hit the road.

Please pull over if you need to use your smart phone for any reason. Please comb your hair and put on makeup at home. Please avoid sloppy meals while driving.

Do this not only for us and everyone else on the road. Do it for yourself and your loved ones.