Making Sense of a "Post" Pandemic Life...
To me, when the pandemic started, it seemed easy out here in rural Minnesota to see it as something that wasn't going to impact us to any great degree. It seemed like the metro areas were a bigger concern and I thought (wrongly) that we'd be just fine out here on the prairie. Now, as we near the end of 2022, a lot has changed, and though the pandemic is still impacting many, our lives do seem to have settled in and, in some ways, returned to normal.
That's the general consensus - that we're all feeling like life can be lived. We can decide to participate and attend events, invite people into our homes and travel like we did in the past. There are concerts in concert halls, movies and plays in the theatres, large sporting events, in-office work days, growing attendance in our churches and hardly a masked person to be seen.
But some things have not changed. Check out this data regarding distracted driving:
According to "Together for Safer Roads", Americans are driving less due to the pandemic, still more than 40,000 people died in traffic crashes in 2020 — the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007 — with many of these attributed to distracted driving.
And according to Automotive Fleet Magazine, “Studies show that distracted drivers will, on average, only see and recognize 50% of the cars on the road with them.”
Additional research shows that 16.2% of drivers in 2021 have texted while driving, which is a [mere] 2.2% decrease from drivers in 2020
Over half of all respondents (52.4%) believe that using a GPS on your phone is less dangerous than actually texting while driving, despite studies showing otherwise.
Though some drivers claimed they never drive while distracted, others confessed to engaging in a variety of other activities while driving, such as texting, taking pictures, drinking, etc.
Some of the habits drivers are engaged in are:
23.6% of drivers are texting.
52.5% of drivers are eating while driving.
11.7% of drivers are taking pictures.
6.5% of drivers apply makeup.
3.4% drinking alcohol while driving.
Only 4.1% of respondents between the age of 25 to 34 declared they felt a high pressure to reply to text messages while driving. Whereas in total, 12.1% of participants in that age group felt no pressure to respond to a text message.
17.9% of respondents between the ages 18 to 24 felt very pressured to reply to a text while driving. This age group is also most often found in [crashes].
I find this data alarming and upsetting, not only because Robert was killed by a distracted driver, but because people are STILL being killed by distracted drivers! This is preventable, but like the pandemic, many of us think it is something that we don't have to worry about anymore. The state of MInnesota like many other US states has passed some laws that have helped. For example, in MInnesota, it is now illegal to use a handheld device while operating a motor vehicle (including while stopped at a traffic light or stop sign). That's a great step forward, but it's clearly not enough or the data would reflect a decrease in the number of crashes involving distracted drivers. In defense of law enforcement, distracted driving is often hard to prove, drivers are not always asked about distracted behaviors behind the wheel, and drivers often deny that they were distracted.
More needs to be done!
And I can't help but think that Robert, if he were still here, would agree.
Please! Please! Please! Change your behavior behind the wheel! Be an example to your children of what it looks like to take your driving responsibilities seriously! Save your own life of the lives of others. One simple way to do that is to pay attention. Stay engaged with the road and the traffic. Pull off the road, into a parking lot to check your messages or to set your GPS. Put your phone in "airplane mode" while you drive and only check it when you arrive or are not on the road. Don't be afraid to tell others to do the same.
In this post pandemic time, you probably don't need to wear a mask, but you do need to make a conscious decision about when it is appropriate to wear one. That's the smart thing to do. Your life and mine may depend on it.
And in this post pandemic time, you need to remember that the data about distracted driving proves that it is still an epidemic. Be a part of the solution. Choose to drive distracted free. That's the smart thing to do. Your life and mine depends on it.