EDITORIAL: Keep your eyes on the road, not your phone

City Times Editorial Board

On April 9, some members of the City Times attended a press conference at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles. The press conference focused on how local law enforcement, insurance companies and hospitals are uniting to spread awareness on the dangers of distracted driving.

Distracted driving is anything that diverts a driver’s attention from the road, including putting on makeup, playing the radio too loud, taking on the phone or text messaging.

We were bombarded with statistic after statistic on how deadly distracted driving can be. 5,000 teenagers, for example, are killed yearly in distracted driving-related accidents, according to the California Highway Patrol. In 2008, unattention played a role in 29,000 car crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted that chances are four times higher to be involved in a collision when texting.

Although the stats alone were enough to scare the audience in the room straight, all those numbers paled in comparison to the story told by mother Martha Tessmer. Although a room full of journalists can be branded to be ruthless and without emotion, Tessmer definitely left the room deeply moved by her tragic story about her son.

Donovan Tessmer was in a car full of friends going to see a movie while his girlfriend behind the wheel blasted the radio and pushed the speed limit. Donovan’s friends questioned the erratic speed and how it was making the car lose control. As a joke, the driver jerked the wheel and lost control of the vehicle.

After crashing into two trees, all three backseat passengers flew out of the car, landing on the pavement in front of them. Donovan died instantly.

Choking back tears as she stood in front of a screen depicting images of her son, Tessmer confessed that seeing Donovan on screen is still hard to watch. She stood besides his letterman’s jacket and signature-covered football as she pleaded that it took only one bad decision in a vehicle to change their lives forever.

It’s impossible to prepare for all of life’s uncertainities, but taking an honest look at how we operate behind the wheel can no longer be ignored.

Although it should be common sense, the simple step of getting off the phone has to come first. No phone call is worth losing life. Have a call so urgent that it can’t wait? Pull over to the side of the road. Driving emotionally definitely qualifies as distracted driving. So does text messaging, that takes your eyes off the road.

Putting your makeup on behind the wheel may save you time, but it could also make you miss a vehicle that quickly lane-changed in front of you. Leave the powder room primping at home.

That song may be the latest at the clubs, but does it have to blast your speakers? Tunes that are too loud block your surrounding awareness to emergency vehicles.

The hardest question to ask ourselves is are we being safe behind the wheel? Can we make these statistics a thing of the past? The answer truly lies in our hands, snuggly wrapped around the wheel and not cupping our cell phones.