Pay attention on the road

Distracted driving causes far too many deaths and injuries.

Daily Editorial Board

According to the National Safety Council, automobile collisions are the number one cause of death of people ages 16-24. The primary cause of these crashes is distracted driving, of which the most common and dangerous may be cellphone use. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, about 11 percent of drivers at any given time are on their cellphone.

With federal funding in hand, Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies will be teaming up this week to send a message to distracted drivers statewide. This push comes in the wake of some startling statistics. About a quarter of crashes throughout Minnesota are caused by distracted driving, causing 208 deaths and 26,000 injuries annually.

For those who are unaware, reading and writing text messages as well as surfing the web behind the wheel are illegal in Minnesota. This practice is most common among young people, who are also the most likely to be riding bicycles — and for University of Minnesota students who bike to class daily, the dangers of distracted driving are all too real. While Minneapolis is considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation, it is incumbent upon those of us who drive to pay attention behind the wheel and keep an eye out for vulnerable bikers.

Cutting down on distracted driving is a matter of common sense. Passengers riding with a distracted driver should speak up. Never continue a cellphone conversation with someone who is behind the wheel, and be aware that stereos, GPS units and other gadgets in the car can also be a distraction. Injuries and deaths from distracted driving are entirely preventable, so please pay attention while driving.