Using cellphone while driving can have life-changing consequences

By Sirena Clark, Fort Campbell CourierMay 6, 2022

Using cellphone while driving can have life-changing consequences
Investigator Amanda Martini looks at her phone at a stop sign April 29 in this photo illustration. A significant number of on-post drivers are not paying attention while on the road, according to a recent survey in which police spent five days watching drivers during the busiest hours of traffic, said Lt. Nicholas Pietila, traffic supervisor, Traffic Management and Collision Investigations, Fort Campbell Provost Marshal Office. (Photo Credit: Sirena Clark) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Military Police conducted a weeklong traffic survey at two installation intersections and discovered approximately 1,920 people were driving while also using their cellphones.

“In the majority of crashes on the installation are distracted driving of some shape or form as an underlying, contributing factor,” said Lt. Nicholas Pietila, traffic supervisor, Traffic Management and Collision Investigations, Fort Campbell Provost Marshal Office.

Cause for concern

The survey was conducted during the busiest hours of traffic, Pietila said. He and his team learned was that there is a significant number of drivers who are not paying attention while on the road.

“Our team determined that there was a 7.5% rate of distracted drivers during the hours of high traffic volume, however, I suspect that had we expanded that survey to other intersections it would have been higher,” he said.

The intersections observed were Indiana Avenue and 42nd Street, and Normandy Boulevard and Wickham Avenue. Military Police spent one-hour increments counting cars 9-10 a.m., 11 a.m.-noon, and 5-6 p.m., for a total of three hours each day.

At the intersection of Indiana and 42nd 12,098 cars were observed, and at Normandy and Wickham 13,510 cars were counted. A total of 25,608 cars were factored into the traffic survey.

This number did not include vehicle drivers who could not be easily observed because of dark window tint, which could mean there are more people driving while using their cellphones, Pietila said.

The average was taken from the total number of vehicles counted during each hourlong observation, with some numbers getting dangerously high, Pietila said.

“Our lowest vehicle count in one hour was 450 vehicles, and our highest percentage of distracted drivers was actually during that hour,” he said. “It came out at 14%.”

That’s approximately 63 drivers in the space of an hour who were observed operating a vehicle while looking at their cellphones.

Cellphones and driving

Many behaviors can be classified as distracted driving, Pietila said, and fall under three categories – manual, visual, and cognitive.

Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it involves all three types of distractions.

“Anything that takes your attention away from the roadway is distracted driving,” he said. “It could be having a conversation in your car, adjusting the radio, using the GPS, and I’ve even seen people be brazen enough to read while driving. And I’ve watched women put on makeup while driving for miles.”

Texting while driving, Pietila said, is a concern for law enforcement because it is so prevalent. By not paying attention a distracted driver is taking the lives of others who are on the road into his or her hands.

“If you’ve ever watched videos of people walking around while they’re texting, they walk into walls or fall into holes, it’s because they are completely oblivious to the world around them,” he said. “When you do that while operating a motor vehicle, you now become a hazard and a danger to everyone around you, including yourself.”

Just this year, Pietila said, about 45 tickets have been issued on Fort Campbell for distracted driving, and while the monetary consequence is just $60, the effects of one wrong incident could be life-changing.

“We’ve had lots of incidents on Fort Campbell where drivers randomly hit something on the side of the road and it was clear that the most likely cause was that they were texting and driving,” he said. “I’ve seen a four-car pile-up and rollovers here on the installation where distracted driving was most likely the cause.”

Don’t risk it

Texting while driving has severe consequences off the installation as well, Pietila said.

A ticket that costs $60 on the installation is $125 off-post if it’s a city-issued citation, and up to $350 if it is a state-issued citation after factoring in court costs and fines.

A state-issued citation for distracted driving is serious.

“If you get a state citation it is going before a judge,” he said.

Aside from the hit the wallet will take for that kind of fine, Pietila said it’s simply not worth putting lives at risk to immediately answer a text when it can be answered when the vehicle is parked.

“The kinetic energy of a vehicle is very high, and the faster you’re going the worse the damage will be,” he said. “You don’t have to be going very fast either. If you’re driving 25-30 miles an hour and you’re not paying attention, things can get really bad very fast.”

Ways to prevent distracted driving include turning the cellphone off or putting it on vibrate, keeping it out of reach, or putting it on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode while driving.