June is Drive Safe Month and driver instructors as well as insurance companies are using this as a time to offer some potentially lifesaving reminders.
Not using seat belts can double the risk of serious injury or death in a crash. Pat Venditte of the Cornhusker Driving School says using a cell phone to talk or text can have dire consequences. The technology, according to government statistics, is responsible for at least 3,000 deaths on the roadways every year.
Venditte noted that in Nebraska, “There is nothing specific on the books relating to texting and driving and use of cell phones, they are secondary offenses.” So a driver can be punished, but only after committing another driving offense.
To demonstrate how a phone can impair a driver’s abilities, Venditte allowed 15-year-old student Oliver Jarosik to experience it firsthand. "I'm around people who do it all the time, but don't really say anything because they're more experienced than me."
With Jarosik’s parents’ permission and Venditte in ultimate control with instructor’s devices on the passenger side, Jarosik took off through a southwest Omaha neighborhood. Venditte dialed the teen’s cell phone and told him to go ahead and pick up. Immediately, Jarosik drifted a bit to the center lane. In another instance, he did not see an approaching vehicle before making a turn.
Venditte allowed WOWT reporter Jodi Baker to take the wheel while attempting to text. The results were even scarier. "The intended path of travel is not where your car is, it's on both sides of the road,” Venditte pointed out, “and if there was traffic behind you I'm sure they would have been annoyed by now. You probably would have heard the horn.”
Farm Bureau Financial offers other reminders of simple, yet often overlooked things drivers can do to play it safe on the roadways. Weather, for instance, is a factor in 24 percent of all crashes, according to government statistics. Wet roads, in particular, are responsible for most of the troubles.
Cars typically don’t hydroplane or lose control on waterlogged roadways until they reach a speed of 55 mph. So slowing down can greatly reduce the risk of crashes. The same holds true in the case of low visibility with fog. Traffic, overall, slows by 10-12 percent. Therefore, drivers should remember to adjust accordingly and allow more following distance.
Still, distractions are the single biggest problem Venditte sees. Even the increased technology in newer cars can take a drivers attention to the dashboard as opposed to the road where it belongs. “It’s not like the days of old where all you had was a steering column and a little switch to turn the headlights on. Today, cars are much like a spacecraft.”
“With all of what is going on in our lifetime today, we bring a lot of that into the driving. And drivers have got to realize that behind the wheel, it is total concentration on the driving task. It is that important.”