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For once, a message really is urgent: Put down the phone while driving

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After all of these years, I’m surprised, I’m still surprised.” I hear myself saying this more and more. After reading this you’ll understand why.

I’m often approached by people who want to discuss driving problems they have personally observed.

The biggest complaint by far is the topic of distracted driving. Distracted driving is not just the use of cell phones, but it will be the focus for this discussion.

Law enforcement has termed distracted driving as the new DUI. It is more prevalent than anything I have ever seen in my career. It used to be just the kids looking at their phones, whether it was texting, Facebook, Instagram, or movies; now I see it with all age groups.

Law enforcement has been very vocal about the dangers of using your phone while driving. But we can always use help. So one theme you will see with my articles is the power you have to help with the message.

Talk to others; let them know you are as tired of seeing this as much as cops are tired of it. Let them know how dangerous it is and what the consequences will be which includes serious injury crashes and in some cases, death.

Parents are the first line of defense and need to lead by example, which can be achieved by never driving distracted. Also have a talk with your young driver about distractions and all of the responsibilities that come with driving.

Have everyone in the family be held accountable to distraction-free driving.

I suggest you put the phones in your car’s back seat, in the glove box, even in the trunk. You should do whatever it takes to reduce the urge of picking up the phone while driving.

Some believe it’s OK to look at their phone if they only do it at a stoplight; it’s not. The times I see people do that they are there much longer than the red light lasted.

I watched one gentleman looking at his phone for close to 20 seconds after the light was green. Fortunately, there weren’t any other cars behind him at the time, because he wouldn’t have known. The scary part of that is someone driving could have come up behind and hit him because he needed to see the sports scores right then. Besides the scores, he also got a ticket that day.

If you have to use the phone, whether to talk to someone or to see what someone is doing on Facebook, you can pull onto the shoulder, or better yet exit the roadway. You’ll have a better chance of being around to tell friends and family what you saw when you’re not in a hospital bed.

Think about this: If you are so busy looking at your phone you don’t even see the state trooper next to you watching you do it, your focus is not where it needs to be … driving. I see it every day I patrol the road. Please don’t be that person.

So please use your phones where they are safe and won’t cause a crash. It also reduces road rage.

Safe travels!

Trooper Gary Cutler is a public information officer for the Colorado State Patrol.

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