CITY BEAT: DISTRACTED DRIVERS ARE SERIOUS THREAT ON STREETS AND HIGHWAYS
I had stopped my car at the second traffic signal south of Lake Decatur on Route 51 one evening last week — because the light was red. Shortly thereafter a car in the lane next to me whizzed by and through the intersection even though the traffic light was still red! Fortunately, there were not any cars coming through the intersection from east or west or there would have been a terrible wreck with a possible loss of life!
The car that had whizzed through the traffic signal on red had come to a stop at the next intersection because the light was red and I happened to pull up beside it. I looked over to see the condition of the driver who had recklessly driven through a red light without any apparent thought of stopping. A young woman was in the driver’s seat and had a hand-held cellphone. She was talking away while she made gestures with her free arm. What disturbed me even more was that she had two small children in the car with her!
I lowered my window to say something to her about distracted driving but she drove on through the intersection with the cellphone then glued to the side of her head and being totally engrossed in her conversation. The young woman was not only a danger to herself but to the children with her and other drivers on the road.
• APRIL is “Distracted Driving Awareness Month” and I see examples daily as I drive around the community of drivers who run through four-way stops, red traffic signals and are totally oblivious to the drivers and pedestrians around them because they are talking on their cellphones or are engrossed in a conversation with a passenger.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “distracted driving has become a deadly epidemic on our roads. Cellphone use — specifically, texting, talking, and social media use — has become the most common distraction. Other risky actions include adjusting the radio or GPS, applying makeup, eating and drinking. By driving distracted, you’re robbing yourself of seconds that you may need to avoid a close call or deadly crash.”
In 2021, distracted driving killed 3,522 people.
THE NHTSA recommends following these tips for a safe ride: • Need to send a text? Pull over and park your car in a safe location. • Designate your passenger as your “designated texter” to respond to calls or messages. • Do not scroll through apps while driving. • Struggling not to text and drive? Put the cellphone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of the vehicle until you arrive at your destination. • Remind your friends and family: If you’re in the driver’s seat, it’s the only thing you should be doing. No distractions. • If your driver is texting or otherwise distracted, tell them to stop and focus on the road.
• I HAD just started walking to the bank today and, as I was about to cross Main Street at the Water Street intersection just north of our office, a black pick-up truck whizzed through the four-way stop without a hint the driver knew the stop sign was there! If I had not been paying attention, the distracted pick-up truck driver would have run over me! As a pedestrian I’ve had that happen a lot in recent months.
I don’t think I’m being targeted because of anything I write as an editor. I think drivers are just not paying attention to driving safely. As I’ve mentioned repeatedly in this column, drive and walk defensively because you never know what the driver of a vehicle is thinking or what distraction has caused them to ignore signs and guides that promote safety, I’ve been driving a car since I was 16 years old and I have never seen so much reckless and distracted driving in all of those years, as I do now — every day!
• BAD NEWS — Nearly 43,000 people died in U.S. traffic crashes in 2021 (latest year with complete numbers), the highest number in 16 years with deaths due to speeding and impaired or distracted driving on the rise. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, confirmed earlier estimates by the agency showing a 10.5% increase in deaths over 2020. That’s the highest number since 2005 and the largest percentage increase since 1975. Data shows a 12% rise in fatal crashes involving at least one distracted driver. The number of pedestrians killed rose 13%, and cyclist fatalities were up 2% for the year. The number of unbelted passengers killed rose 8.1%, while fatalities involving alcohol-impaired driving were up 14%. Speeding-related deaths increased 7.9%, while crash deaths involving large trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds were up 17%. From the way I’ve been seeing a lot of people drive on our city’s streets and roads, the number may go even higher this year.
• FAIR COMING — The Macon County Fair Board held a press conference Monday to announce this year’s 167th Annual County Fair which is set for June 7 – 11th. It hasn’t been that long ago that the fair appeared to be dead, but a lot of credit goes to everyone who worked hard to bring back the annual event which now seems to grow stronger every year. We will have more details on what to expect in future articles.
• MILLER Wants Answers —Last week, Congresswoman Mary Miller (R-IL), who represents many of us in the nation’s capitol, led over two dozen Members of Congress in writing a letter to President Biden’s Defense Secretary to demand answers on the attack on Christian faith administered by the Biden Administra-tion over Easter weekend. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center sent a “cease and desist” letter to Catholic priests to stop providing care during Holy Week, violating the First Amendment rights of Americans.
“Priests and pastors guided our troops through the darkest days of our toughest battles,” Miller said. “The Biden Administration chose Easter weekend to kick Catholic priests out of Walter Reed, violating their First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. I am proud to lead this letter to Biden’s Defense Secretary to demand answers on this unconscionable attack on Christian service members.”
In the letter, the Members ask Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin why the Biden Administration chose Holy Week to send a “cease and desist” letter forcing Catholic priests, who have provided over 20 years of service, to discontinue their pastoral care.
Miller certainly has the right to speak out on national issues, but it is also important to work on items that directly benefit the people in her district. She has been a no-show in the Decatur and Macon County part of her district, and I’m told, has never even met our mayor. That’s important in better understanding the needs of this district. I certainly wish her the best but, so far, Decatur and Macon County have not been a part of any recognition from her — and that’s not good for her or us.
• MEANWHILE, our other Congresswoman representing a chunk of our area, Nikki Budzinski, is seemingly everywhere in our district, holding meetings, getting input and being very “media friendly”. She has also been busy building concensus on items that directly benefit her constituents in the district. Her first 100 days have been highly productive, both in public relations and building for the future. High marks for her first 100!
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider to discuss the issues and challenges confronting Decatur and Central Illinois. ..— a conversation we’ve been having about every Thursday morning for the past 20 years.