Elkhorn Police Encourage Drivers to "Put it Down" When it Comes to Distractions While Driving
Elkhorn, WI - With nearly 6,000 lives lost and more than half a million people injured from distracted drivers in 2008 alone, communities across the nation are joining the "Put it Down" campaign designed to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. Today, the Elkhorn Police Department announced they have joined this movement in an effort to concentrate on the road.
"We all know that talking on our cell phones while driving is distracting, but that doesn't stop most people from continuing to do it," said Chief Joel Christensen. "This effort is intended to educate our community about the dangers of cell phone use, along with many other common distractions while driving. We hope that once people see the statistics and realize the real danger involved, they will change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families and others on the road."
Texting is of heightened concern because it combines three types of distraction - visual, taking the eyes off the road; manual, taking the hands off the wheel; and cognitive, taking the mind off the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
While cell phones are a major focus of the distracted driving campaign, the Elkhorn Police Department is also encouraging people not to do any other task while driving. Effective December 1, 2010, it will be against the law to text while driving in Wisconsin. As a primary enforcement law, officers may stop and ticket drivers solely for texting while driving.
"Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving, which increases the risk of crashing," said Chief Christensen. " With more portable technology now than ever, driver distractions have risen to unprecedented numbers, but cell phones aren't the only problem. Drivers can be distracted by eating and drinking, grooming, tuning the radio or even talking to passengers, and we want people to realize that anything that takes their attention from the road is a potential hazard."
The national distracted driving effort focuses on ways to change the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education - the same activities that have curbed drunk driving and increases seat belt use.
The Elkhorn Police Department will be working with the Elkhorn Area School District in order to educate young motorists of the dangers associated with distracted driving. Some of the initiatives will include distracted driving posters placed throughout the Elkhorn Area High School to create awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, flyers with a similar message distributed by officers to drivers exiting the school the week of the Thanksgiving Holiday, and on December 16th and 17th a distracted driving simulator will be set up at the High School for student awareness training. The allocation of the simulator is a result of a partnership between the Lake Geneva Police Department, the Elkhorn Police Department, and AAA Wisconsin.
"Every driver in Elkhorn has a role in this effort," said Chief Christensen "However, we especially want to reach out to parents with teen drivers and younger drivers because we know that statistically, the under 20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes."
The Elkhorn Police Department's goal with this campaign is simple - save lives by getting driver's to "Put it Down" and concentrate on driving.
For more information about distracted driving, please visit www.distraction.gov, or you can contact Lt. Jon Anzalone at the Elkhorn Police Department - (262)723-2210.