Everything has to have its own month and April is no different. The fourth month of the year is home to 32 different monthly observations that go from the not-so-serious National Straw Hat Month and the very serious National Child Abuse Awareness Month.
April is also Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety talked about the issue and why it’s so serious, “I can't imagine any text message or e-mail that is more important than a human life. It is only human nature to want to pick up your phone when it alerts you that someone has sent you a message, but it will not hurt you or anyone else if you wait until you have reached your destination to check your phone.”
He’s so right.
Mark Davis, a radio host in North Texas and a frequent columnist for The Dallas Morning News, explained what can happen in a recent column. “Thirteen people are dead in a South Texas church bus crash because of one driver’s decision to text while zooming down a highway. A motorist behind the speeding, weaving pickup called 911 to alert authorities and then watched as the 20-year-old plowed into the bus filled with seniors from First Baptist Church in New Braunfels.
“The witness rushed to the pickup and the bus in time to hear the pickup driver cry out, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I was texting.’”
That was just one case in far off Texas, but here at home in a media release from the GOHS said, “The number of distracted driving crashes in Georgia has risen by more than 400 percent in the last decade. There were 25,215 crashes in the state last year where inattentive, cell phone or distracted was listed as the contributing factor compared to 5,784 such crashes in 2006.
“There were 3,477 people killed and 391,000 injured in distracted driving crashes across the nation in 2015. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says approximately 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving during daylight hours.”
The way things are going, Distracted Driving Awareness Month is going to have to be expanded to include distracted pedestrians. Last week, Blackwood released data for the Georgia Department of Transportation that as of March 30, there had been 53 pedestrians killed in the state this year.
The Governors Highway Safety Association said, “Pedestrians now account for the largest proportion of traffic fatalities recorded in the past 25 years. An estimated 5,997 pedestrian fatalities occurred during 2016, compared with 5,376 in 2015 and 4,910 in 2014.”
“After adjusting for anticipated under reporting in the preliminary state data, GHSA estimates the number of pedestrians killed in 2016 increased by 11 percent compared with 2015. This was the largest annual increase in both the number and percentage of pedestrian fatalities in the 40 years ...”
From January to June, according to the study, Georgia had 90 pedestrian deaths in 2015. In 2016, during the same time period, there were 109 pedestrian deaths, an increase of 21.1 percent.
Some of the same measures that can cut down on distracted driving accidents can apply to distracted pedestrians. Walkers lose touch, too, with their faces staring at their smartphones or talking as they stroll down the street, many times with headphones or earbuds blocking sensory perceptions that could save their life.
And there are other steps walkers should take:
▪ Wear clothing that’s easy for drivers to see.
▪ Just as you shouldn’t drink and drive you shouldn’t drink and walk. The GHSA study explained, “Alcohol involvement for the driver and/or pedestrian was reported in about half of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2015.”
Macon, over the years has had more than its share of pedestrian deaths. In 2015, Macon-Bibb County had a pedestrian death rate of 3.86 per 100,000 residents, the second highest in the state.
However, Blackwood explained the most important thing drivers and pedestrians need to do: “Pay attention.”