Distracted Driving Affects Everyone

By Katie Woodall
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO, Ark. – The National Safety Council observes April as Distracted Driving Awareness month in an effort to educate drivers and create awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

Distracted driving can be any form of driving while engaging in another activity, but the most commonly thought of form is texting and driving. Currently, 46 states feature a texting and driving law with all but five having primary enforcement.

The Arkansas Legislature enacted Paul’s Law in 2009 after a Jonesboro man died in a texting-and-driving related accident. The friends and family of Paul Davidson pushed the legislation in an attempt to educate others about the dangers of texting and driving.

Matt Roberson played a key part in working on Paul’s Law and said it was created in an attempt to deter texting and driving more than anything.

“If there was ever anything positive about this situation, we felt creating a law that might save others and remembering Paul would be the best way to do it. While it was difficult and tragic at the time, we can look back on it all now and know that we did something that might help someone from experiencing the same tragedy,” Roberson said.

While the law hasn’t had the preferred deterring effect, Roberson said he believes people are more aware of the dangers now because of all the organizations dedicated to educating people about it.

“The more awareness there is, the more likely people will listen and stop. Unfortunately, it just takes time for people to learn and sometimes it takes learning the hard way,” Roberson said.

Paul Holmes, a public information specialist for the Jonesboro Police Department, said teaching motorists the laws and what qualifies as distracted driving could help with the texting and driving incidents in Jonesboro.

“Distracted driving can mean anything from looking for a song to listen to while going down the highway, to sitting at a red light and checking a message. It’s the driver’s responsibility to themselves as well as other motorists to be safe,” Holmes said.

Last year, in an effort to reduce the number of distracted-driving accidents in Jonesboro, JPD set up traffic stops at Red Wolf Boulevard and Caraway Road and actually walked through traffic during red lights, ticketing drivers who were on their phones.

“We did see a reduction in accidents fairly quickly after doing the traffic stop. It may be something we do again in the future,” Holmes said.

The Jonesboro Police Department documented 164 car crashes involving texting and driving specifically over the past three years.

Becca Studebaker has experience on both ends of a texting and driving accident. Her first accident happened when she was driving distracted in a construction zone.

“I looked down to my phone for one second and then all the sudden I was hitting signs,” Studebaker said.

While she was ticketed for distracted driving, Studebaker said she’s thankful only her car was hurt in the accident and she learned her lesson when it comes to texting and driving.

Yet just because Studebaker said she doesn’t text and drive anymore, that doesn’t make other drivers follow the law.

Last month, Studebaker was involved in another texting and driving accident, this time being rear-ended by another driver who was distracted. Studebaker said she suffered a concussion and whiplash, and her car was totaled in the accident.

Ultimately, Studebaker said she hopes the person that rear-ended her learned the same lesson about texting and driving that she did.

“You think it’s OK; you’re fine the majority of the time you think, but there’s that one time that you could end up hurting yourself or someone else,” Studebaker said.

(Editor’s Note: Photo of texting and driving by Intel Free Press [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)