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Reason to Celebrate • National Safety Month

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Story by Bill Mulherin


You’ve seen them on the streets and highways, bobbing and weaving along to their next destination. You’ve watched the aftermath of their accidents on the news and sat in the traffic jams those accidents create.

Distracted drivers are everywhere, but sometimes they can even be found staring back at us in the mirror. If we’re honest, most of us actually are “them”– making a call, sending a text, or posting on Facebook to comment on all those terrible drivers… all while behind the wheel.

A collaboration of groups under the banner of the Distracted Driving Alliance has banded together to focus the public’s attention on this dangerous activity and to challenge drivers to make the simple yet critical decision to go back to driving only while driving.

The first Distracted Driving Alliance event focuses on cell phone use and all its various distractions, including text messaging and web access.


The group has launched a campaign called the Great National Cell Off and the inaugural “Cell Off” day is set for June 29. All you have to do to join this groundswell of drivers, those concerned with their own and other’s inattention behind the wheel, is simply put your phone down when driving on that day.

The groups, which include the National Safety Council, Greater Omaha Chapter, the CAR Alliance, Keep Kids Alive Drive 25, Douglas County Sheriff, Omaha Police Department and others, are calling on the public to stay focused on the task of driving when you are driving.

Why focus on cell phones? Aren’t there literally hundreds of other distractions that challenge drivers, from unruly passengers to the endless parade of billboards lining some of our highways? Yes, but the cell phone is unique in its penetration into driving habits. To many of us, we have become immune to its dangers and excuse ourselves as obvious offenders.

That’s the catch; the cell phone has a perhaps unique ability to pull a driver’s mind away from the task of driving, and that’s what sets the devices apart from all other distractions.


The National Safety Council has coordinated studies and compiled statistics on the issue. The numbers are sobering. Research shows that drivers on cell phones are equally as impaired as drunk drivers. This effect remains even if the driver is using a hands free device. The Council attributes as many as 6 percent of all fatal injury accidents to cell phone use. Add the human toll of disabling injuries and the cost of property damage, and th­­e numbers are downright grim.

The “Cell Off,” naturally, doesn’t need to be a one-day exercise. Practice smarter, safer, year-round driving habits by turning off your cell every time you get behind the wheel. It won’t cost you a penny, and may keep thousands of dollars in your pocket – money you won’t be spending on the time and hassle brought about by an accident.

What about those other distractions?

They haven’t gone away, either, so set plans in motion to address those as well. The radio, backseat entertainment systems, passengers, reading, grooming, fatigue and eating or drinking remain as deadly as ever, every year causing untold number of accidents, injuries and fatalities on our roadways.


Need another reason to avoid distracted driving? Join the June 29 Great National Cell Off.

An accident can last just a second, but the aftermath can last a lifetime. Wrecked cars can be replaced, but wrecked lives are often never the same. Disabling injuries may never heal, fatalities mean forever, and the legal morass that distracted drivers find themselves in after this type of collision can seem almost incomprehensible.

In Nebraska you can be cited for traffic violations committed while distracted. If there is an accident involving a fatality, you may be investigated for either misdemeanor or felony motor vehicle homicide. Both bring potential jail sentences. A misdemeanor can land you in jail for up to a year and felony convictions can bring much longer sentences.

Employers tend to shun those with serious driving offenses and jobs can become scarce. For some, unwise driving decisions lead to serious financial troubles, even bankruptcy. Your automobile insurance will defend you up to a policy’s dollar limits. Beyond that, you’re on your own regarding civil and other actions.

Perhaps most devastating is the emotional toll of knowing you’ve injured or killed another human being. Is that something you are prepared to live with? If not, think twice before sipping, brushing, dialing, texting or webbing behind the wheel.

The reality is that Omaha is still pretty much a twenty-minute town. Can’t most of our conversations wait at least that long?

Participate June 29 and beyond as we “Cell Off” our driving distractions.­­

-end- metroMAGAZINE





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