Blacks most likely to drive distracted

Safety among Tallahassee streets is waning because of distracted college drivers.

Incidents involving driving while distracted, DWD, are rapidly increasing among college-aged drivers who fail to practice good driving behavior. Actions considered DWD can range from self-grooming in the rearview mirror, text messaging, talking on the telephone, daydreaming and driving with pets.

These incidents are resulting in students plowing into other vehicles and ultimately raising their insurance rates.

Sharon Walker, who is an intern at the FAMU Transportation Safety Institute and employee at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the NHTSA has estimated that 25 percent of police-reported car crashes are caused by drivers who have been distracted. 

“I believe that motorists who drive while distracted are hazardous to everyone’s health and well-being,” Walker said. “Anyone doing other tasks while driving will not be able to react in a positive manner if something out of the ordinary happens in traffic.

A 2007 survey taken by Nationwide Mutual Insurance in Columbia, Ohio, showed that adults between the ages of 18 to 28 who grew up in the technological age of the Internet, MP3 players and PlayStations are the guiltiest of DWD. Cell phones like the Sidekick 2 and Blackberry are just a few of the top devices that have led blacks to be 50 percent of the national total of DWD offenders.

The survey also revealed that 79 percent of young adults eat snacks when driving, and 48 percent eat full meals behind the wheel. But only 30 percent of young adults actually admitted to multitasking in the car. Local law enforcement officials say these numbers are not surprising, and they have witnessed incidents involving DWD.

“Multitasking while driving is an increasing problem not only in our area, but throughout the United States,” said Crime Prevention Officer Sherri Luke of the FAMU Police Department.Vincent Williams, a senior physical therapy student, said he learned a $150 lesson that deterred him from DWD.

“Being a college town makes Tallahassee especially vulnerable to the perils of distracted drivers,” said the 22-year old DWD offender. “While driving on this road, text messaging cost me a blown-out tire and a bent rim.” He said the estimated cost of the damages was around $150 for the tire alone.

Tallahassee officials are implementing plans to prevent these careless driving mishaps.

“Drivers that violate Florida chapter 316 (State Uniform Traffic Control) statues can be fined, be accessed points on their license,” Luke said. “If they cause an accident that results in a death or serious injury, they can be criminally and civilly liable.”

In addition, Luke said their agency is providing classes for students before each semester break. In these classes, students receive driving and safety tips. Some of the tips include: Know that you are distracted, even if it does not feel like it. Slowing down will help.

Then, don’t get into intense or emotional conversations while driving.

If it is unavoidable, pulling over will be much less of an inconvenience than hitting a pedestrian or another car.