Editorial: Eyes on the road

“Hey,” “See you later” and “TTYL I’m driving” are all common text messages that take just seconds for the average cell phone user to text and send.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. While traveling 55 miles per hour, that's comparable to driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

Obviously, a lot can happen while you’re driving distracted for those few seconds.

That’s why, once again, Wilton police are participating in the U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY. initiative — an effort to crack down on motorists who choose to text, talk or otherwise distract themselves by using a hand-held mobile phone while driving. The program began Aug. 2 and runs through Aug. 16, during which time there will be special patrols on the lookout for distracted drivers, especially those texting or speaking on cell phones. Don’t think once you leave Wilton you will be in the clear. More than 50 law enforcement agencies — including state and local police — are participating in this program.

Distracted driving emcompasses more than just driving while using your cell phone. In fact, it is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including common actions such as eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, adjusting the stereo, entertainment or navigation system — anything that diverts your attention away from focusing on driving.

The consequences can range from hefty fines from police — $150 for a first offense — to injuries from car crashes, all the way to someone dying.

What can we do?

Let a passenger handle all of those potential distractions by sending that text, adjusting the radio or reading the directions so everyone can make it to their destination safely.

Drivers who struggle with focusing on the road should leave their cell phone in the back seat. A lot to ask, but better than winding up in an ambulance.

Parents, set a good example for your children. Young drivers, take this matter seriously. An accident could be a life-changing event for you, and not for the better.

In 2015, 3,477 people were killed by distracted driving in the U.S. and 391,000 people were injured as a result of distracted driving.

That’s a lot of people. Don’t be one of them.

U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY. You could pay with your life.