Distracted driving discussion looks to raise awareness for all ages
COLUMBIA – After the Missouri Department of Transportation reported more than 19,000 distracted driving car crashes last year, members of transportation safety groups and the University of Missouri are hosting a public discussion Tuesday on the dangers of losing focus on the road.
Missouri Roundtable of Distracted Driving: Act to End the Deadly Distraction will be held in Stotler Lounge of MU’s Memorial Union from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The National Transportation Safety Board, the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, StopDistractions.org and the University of Missouri will be presenting the conversation.
The event is open to the public, including youth.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, highway crashes are a leading cause of death, with 10 percent of traffic fatalities resulting from distracted driving.
Missouri is one of two states across the nation to not have bans on driver use of cell phones for texting. Last year alone, the safety board said at least 79 people died in Missouri from crashes involving distracted driving. Overall cell-phone related crashes in Missouri have gone up 35 percent since 2014.
As a part of a generation who received cell phones before driver's licenses, MU student Mallory Becker said the discussion is bringing awareness to people of all ages about the severity of distracted driving.
“It’s starting a dialogue,” Becker said. “It’s extremely commonplace and it’s not seen as taboo as drunk driving, but it can be just as dangerous.”
The roundtable panel features 27 professionals whose goal will be to consider solutions in education, legislation and enforcement to reduce distractions on the road.
Opportunities for attendees to meet with the roundtable participants will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
Becker said that despite young people not having a seat on the panel, the chance to become more aware of distracted driving is reason enough.
“We are especially at risk to being distracted by our phones more than older people,” Becker said. “It’s something that really needs to be talked about because I don’t think it’s something that’s taken seriously enough amongst young people.”
For more information on the discussion, see the National Transportation Safety Board’s website.