Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver, reports the CDC. Distracted driving is broken down into three main types; visual, manual and cognitive. Visual is taking your eyes off the road, manual is taking your hands off the wheel and cognitive is taking your mind off the act of driving.
Talking on the phone, using a navigation system and texting are all examples of distracted driving. Texting while driving combines all three classifications of distraction, making it the most dangerous. In 2016, over 330,000 accidents were caused by a driver that was texting.
On May 26th, 2016 Sitka banned the use of cellphones while driving in hopes of reducing distracted driving accidents and making the roads safer. This ordinance was successful according to a series of observational studies led by Doug Osborne, Director of Health Promotion at Sitka Community Hospital. Distracted driving rates have fallen by over 80% since the 2016 cellphone ban.
The surveys were conducted over a two-week time period on Halibut Point Road between Petersen and Blatchley Middle School on weekdays between 10am and 3pm. Drivers who clearly had one hand off the wheel touching something else such as their phone, food, a pet, or cigarette were marked as distracted. Drivers with nothing in either hand that had their eyes on the road were marked as not distracted or “just driving. The first study was conducted in 2015 and 57 Sitka drivers where marked as distracted. The most recent study, conducted in 2018, showed a sharp decline, just 9 distracted drivers.
“I think Sitka has the safest road system in Alaska,” says Doug Osborn. Sitka Community Hospital would like to thank the citizens of Sitka for making the roads safer by putting their phones away.
Join us in continuing this trend by not using your phone while driving, it can wait!