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Distracted driving leads to tragedies

Jun 06, 2019 10:30AM

This is the second part in a series of articles on public safety issues for south Utah County.

When Lieutenant Warren Foster of the Springville Police Department was asked about the number one public safety issue for our area, he answered without hesitation, “Distracted driving.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Distracted driving is dangerous, claiming 3,166 lives in 2017 alone.”

The NHTSA describes distracted driving as “…any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.”

This issue is on the rise and it’s an even bigger problem now that we are in the summer months. Foster explains that “School is out. More children are out on or near the streets.”

So many potential tragedies can be avoided by putting our phones down and watching for pedestrians. Foster encourages everyone to put their phones in “Do Not Disturb” mode while driving. “Radios, children, etc. already do a pretty good job of distracting us while driving. The phone is one more thing. So don’t engage with it. Pull over to do any business you need to do on your phone.”

The NHTSA cautions: “Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At fifty-five mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”

Police departments from around the county and the Utah Highway Patrol often don’t initially see a lot of truth coming from those involved in accidents. Foster explains that “A lot of times, those who get in an accident because they were on their phones don’t admit it.”

But phones aren’t the only thing causing distracted driving. Foster describes how they frequently see people who are in their vehicles on our roads, but they’re not ready for work yet. They are shaving, fixing their hair, or taking care of that last minute email.

As Foster points out, and as is echoed through campaigns throughout the state, “Distracted driving makes good people look bad.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more ideas on how to keep safe while driving. Go to to learn tips to avoid risky driving, all about the texting and driving laws in the state of Utah, and safety ratings of vehicles, car seats, and tires.

As Foster puts it: “We’re so busy, but we need to remember the important things of life, namely watching out for the people we love.”

“Your automobile is a 1500-10,000 pound deadly weapon,” Foster says. Use it with care.