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Distracted driving a growing problem

Walk into any public place. Look at the people around you. It’s likely the majority are engaged with their smartphones.

Some are texting. Some are looking at forwards sent to them via messaging apps, or surfing the Internet. Others are taking pictures or making videos.

Too many spend hours each day drifting from inane thing to inane thing on their phones, trapped in cycles of time wasting.

Smartphones are addictive. For many the first activity in the morning is looking at the device. That’s also their last activity at night before bed.

At dinners people make less eye contact, engage less in conversation, preferring the mediated world of the smartphone.

We do the same thing while driving. The next time you’re in traffic or at a light look around. It’s likely most people are fiddling with their phones.

When it’s time to start driving they don’t stop. They could be going 50 miles per hour with their heads down, eyes on phone, responding to a text from a friend.

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,450 people were killed in that country in 2016 from distracted driving. In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents.

It’s unclear what percentage of our traffic fatalities and accidents result from distracted driving, but police clearly have taken note of the problem.

Officers are pulling over people who are playing with their phones rather than focusing on the roads. Driving without due care and attention has long been an offense.

New laws related to the smartphone age, however, are necessary. Thankfully, the government has pledged to create them.

Enforcement, though, will be key if the laws are to make a difference. For example, driving while intoxicated has long been a crime. Yet, there is little to no enforcement when it comes to this offense. We drink openly while driving. Consequently, impaired driving is a major factor in major accidents.

There is a broader need for more attention to be placed on policing traffic-related offenses in general. Running the red light is commonplace. Speeding is, too. Here in New Providence people regularly are in excess of 80 miles per hour on the airport road, for example.

On the Family Islands the issues of speeding, impaired and distracted driving are problems as well.

The Bahamas is no longer a small place with empty roads. Our bad behaviors lead to fatalities and serious injuries. While driving, put your phones down. Pay attention. You can answer texts and WhatsApp messages when you arrive at your next destination. That message is not worth your life or that of the person you run in to and kill because you were not paying attention.

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