Oakland Press: Renew your driving focus during Distracted Driving Awareness Month

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

In 2015 there were more than 297,000 car crashes in Michigan. More than 74,000 people were injured in those crashes, and 963 people died.

That is too many injuries and too many deaths from what are most often preventable accidents.

We all know of the dangers associated with drunk driving. Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs are a significant traffic safety problem; approximately 38 percent of fatal crashes involve alcohol and/or drugs. That is why Michigan has adopted a concerted effort to reduce drunk driving in the state.

Driving under the influence is not our only concern. Advances in technology bring both new automobile safety features, but they also bring new ways to impair our driving.

With today’s technology, we can not only make phone calls while driving, but we can also send texts or emails and update social media. Many drivers are under the mistaken belief that they can operate the vehicle and use their cell phones at the same time. But this multitasking myth often results in crashes due to delayed braking times or the driver not being fully aware of surroundings, such as traffic signals.

In fact, texting and driving is six times more dangerous than drinking and driving. That is why Michigan has banned texting while driving since 2010.

The National Safety Council established April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month to bring attention to what has become an epidemic. Distracted driving is responsible for 5,000 deaths and 450,000 vehicle crashes in the United States per year.

I encourage you to take time this April to consider your own driving habits and make any necessary changes to them. When you are on the road, remember to focus on the task at hand — driving. Your life — and the lives of those around you — depends on it.

This column first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.