Increased awareness about distracted driving

Published: Apr. 3, 2014 at 8:14 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 10, 2014 at 3:01 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla._April is National Distracted Driver Month and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is doing what they can to make sure drivers are alert behind the name.

There are some things we're all guilty of doing while driving but hate to admit...texting, looking for something in the back seat or maybe even putting on make up.

But, the problem is, they all distract you from something that should be your priority, keeping your eyes on the road. This month, drivers are encouraged to cut down on those dangerous habits during National Distracted Driver Awareness Month.

The smallest things we do while driving like changing the radio station or looking at the GPS can take our eyes off the road for longer than you think. It can take as little as one second to get in a wreck that could seriously hurt you or someone else.

During a ride-along with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol the first distracted driver was found within just minutes when the trooper spotted a car on I-44 that failed to signal a lane change twice and was driving on the shoulder.

"I discovered him to only have an Oklahoma Identification Card and not a Drivers License. Upon asking him what caused him to have those three violations, he informed me he was using his cell phone to control his radio," said Trooper Cody Jackson.

The driver was changing stations on Pandora and wasn't focused on the road ahead. Jackson says if he hadn't stopped him, he very possibly could have gotten into a wreck.

"Accidents do occur just from people not being aware of their surroundings because they are distracted by electronic devices, cell phones or passengers," explained Jackson.

Since Thursday's driver was driving without a license he not only got a ticket, he also got his car towed. During the short time that the driver was distracted, he covered a fairly large amount of road as Jackson explained.

"At seventy-miles per hour you are covering several hundred feet during that time span and there are a number of untold things that going to be missing while you're looking away from the roadway be it a pedestrian, an animal or another motor vehicle," said Jackson.

Jackson says they're not out to ruin anyone's day, just their mission to keep the roads safe for all drivers.

"When you combine electronic devices or any distractions and traffic violations then that creates for hazardous road conditions and that creates many of the collisions we see on a day to day basis," said Jackson.

He says other indicators of distracted drivers are people using cell phones and then committing a traffic violation, following too closely or hitting the brakes at the last second.

In 2012, there were 39 fatal crashes caused by distracted drivers in Oklahoma and ten of those involved electronic devices.