Letter: Texting not the only danger on the road

To the editor:

The next time you’re at a traffic light in heavy traffic, take a look at the drivers in the cars around you. You can predict what you’ll see: countless bowed heads as people check email, text and more. Every once in a while, we glance up to see if the light has changed. When it does, we step on the gas — sometimes after setting the phone aside, sometimes not.

We all know that distracted driving is dangerous and that our phones have become our greatest distraction. Stats from the Indiana Department of Labor make the level of danger clear: People who text are 23 times more likely to crash than others. In recent years, we’ve seen more crashes due to distracted driving than drunken driving.

As troubling as that is, I don’t think active texting is the only problem. I worry about how distracted we are in the moments after we set the phone aside.

Think about it; when you see that light change out of the corner of your eye and you let your foot off the brake, are you really fully engaged in your driving? Or are you trying to quickly finish a text, still setting the phone aside or simply still thinking about the conversation you were just engaged in? Would you notice if someone was running a red light? If a pedestrian was trying to scramble to beat the light?

As I think of all those bowed heads at stop lights, I worry that we’re all putting ourselves and those around us in danger. Sure, we’re not texting while driving; we’re also not giving our full attention to the job of piloting a ton of steel through busy streets.

As I set my 2018 goals both personally and professionally, I plan to stop using my phone in the car for anything other than emergency phone calls. I encourage everyone to make the same pledge. I am sure I’ll be a better driver as a result, and I’ll certainly feel safer if I know that others are also trying to be more attentive to their driving.

Anna Gremling, executive director

Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization