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Distracted driving endangers students

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 3,000 people were killed in 2016 as a result of distracted driving.  

“I like to stop and think you know, okay so if it’s really that important of a message, whether you’re driving or walking for that matter, especially driving. Is it really that important that you get this message or whatever it is that you’re doing, and if it’s really that important, is it important enough to pull over? And if it’s not important enough to pull over and do it is it even that important at all,” Stuart Hite, director of university police, said. 

Distracted driving can include anything that can distract from paying full attention to the road. It can include texting and driving, eating, drinking, and even changing the music on the phone or the radio.  

“Everybody talks about texting and/or just cellphone distraction. I’ve seen people putting their makeup on. I’ve seen people eating full course meal, it looks like, out of a brown bag. Anything that takes your attention off of the road or away from what you’re supposed to be doing behind the wheel is distracted driving. My advice would be to think about yourself and the safety of yourself and the safety of the people around you and no matter how many times you’ve done it before without incident, I would bet you most people would have a hard time admitting they hadn’t had a close call,” Hite said. 

Approximately 46 percent of young people admit to texting while driving, according to the NHTSA.  

“In the rare cases when I do try to justify it by saying, ‘This text may be important,’ I try not to text other people, but I will occasionally read a text just on the off chance it’s something important,” Cole Scott, junior in psychology and French, said.   

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, being distracted for five seconds sending a text going fifty-five mph is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field. Many people try to justify their reasons for driving distracted, whatever type of distraction it is. 

“I have long, three-hour drives that get very boring, and I get sleepy when I drive… petting (my dog) keeps me awake, or… changing songs or doing a podcast or something will help me stay awake and not be as bored driving,” Lindy Fike, senior in family and consumer sciences education, said. 

The NHTSA recommends crossing only where there is a crosswalk or if no crosswalk is nearby, crossing in a well-lit area where drivers might expect pedestrians. 

“Just today actually, there was a truck, a box truck. It was stopped at the crosswalk between the library and Yates, and the box truck was parked, and I was walking towards Yates and a car didn’t see me walking and it went by and I had to stop, I was like right at the center line,” Scott said. 

Crosswalks and roads are not the only place that distracted driving can cause bodily harm. A report published in the Economist cited that pedestrian fatalities account for 13 percent of accidents in parking lots. 

“I was walking from the orange lot, or the brown lot by Whitesitt, towards Whitesitt on that little cross walk and someone who looked like they were texting and driving almost hit me in that cross walk because they… ran it, and ran the stop sign that was right beside it, and… were going super-fast… I fell on my booty,” Fike said. 

If a student was to get hit by a car on campus, the first thing the student should do is call either 911 or call campus police. Campus police will then call EMS or Pittsburg Fire, so someone can check out the student and make sure they are okay. Hite added that students can do their part by being proactive with paying attention to crossing traffic. 

“That’s a big concern of mine, I do see, everybody, I don’t think you can drive down the road anymore without seeing someone on their phone, and I think the same can be said about pedestrians. You really can’t really walk across campus without seeing people looking down at their phones too, not assessing any blame on the pedestrians, pedestrians do have the right away, but I do think it’s important that they, the students, or anybody walking across campus, understand that you know you need to have your heads up and looking around because sometimes a car may not see you or you may just walk out into the path of the car without realizing it,” Hite said.  

There have been approximately three reports of students being hit on campus just this year alone, and Scott believes you need to be “aware of your surroundings to not end up a statistic.” 

“You’ve got to be on defense a lot, just know that there always could be a person there so it’s better to plan that there is someone there instead of not, and just trying your luck,” Scott said. 

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