Distracted driving was responsible for over 3,100 deaths in 2014, according to government statistics, leading to April being designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
McMinnville Police Department will be educating the public about the dangers of distracted driving, both through the media and in person.
“It’s particularly important for law enforcement to do anything they can this month to let people know distracted driving is not tolerated,” said McMinnville Police Lt. Mark Mara. “We’re trying to educate people on what distracted driving is and not to do it.”
Distracted driving is the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving and increases the chance of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.
“We want people to drive like they are supposed to,” said Mara. “Have both hands on the wheel and pay attention to the roadway so that they can get to their destination safely.”
Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic. According to the official U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving, 3,129 were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2014.
To make McMinnville’s roadways safer, officers will be using unmarked cars that have lights and sirens. Mara says the department understands people will instinctively stop what they’re doing when they see a marked patrol car which is why unmarked cars are used.
“We’ll have two officers in the cars. One officer is recording the distracted driving and the other one is actually stopping the vehicle, talking to the driver and writing tickets when necessary for careless driving,” said Mara. “We can’t do that in a marked patrol car. When people see a marked car, they stop what they are doing. We know that. We don’t want them to stop temporarily because they see a patrol car. We want them to stop permanently so the roads will be safer for everyone.”
Mara said statistics show more than half of motorists drive distracted.
“Statistics show 66 percent of motorists are driving distracted,” said Mara. “It’s not just being on your cellphone. We pulled one woman over because she was applying makeup. It wasn’t just a little makeup. She was applying foundation and had all the brushes out for blush, eye shadow, etc. Eating, people eat while they drive and that’s a distraction. If it takes your attention away from driving, it is a distraction and could increase your crash risk.”
MPD obtains funding from the Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office for its saturation patrols looking for intoxicated drivers, as well as this effort to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving and target those motorists who do it anyway.