Alan Nakanishi: Help us change public attitudes on distracted driving - Lodinews.com: Guest Columnists

Alan Nakanishi: Help us change public attitudes on distracted driving

Posted: Saturday, October 21, 2017 3:30 pm

My top priority for Lodi is ensuring public safety, which includes reducing traffic dangers. Our region already sees too much intoxicated driving and, now with the legalization of marijuana in California, we may see a rise in drugged driving as well.

But the third danger on our roads is perhaps the most troubling because it afflicts people of all ages, day and night, and — most distressing of all — it is not taken seriously by enough in the community.

I am talking about distracted driving. Too often, people choose to talk on the phone, send text messages or emails, or check social media — while they are driving. This type of distraction kills nine people every day in the U.S. And yet society does not view it as a serious crime.

A recent survey found 47 percent of drivers between the ages of 25 and 34 believe texting behind the wheel is just fine.

And I’ll bet you can recall a friend or family member or coworker who regularly texts and drives, or answers the phone while driving. They may admit they shouldn’t be doing it, but they still do it.

The indifference with which we habitually look at distracted driving is leading to growing rates of crashes, fatalities, and serious injuries. This danger especially impacts the young.

Half of all high school students in a recent survey said they text and drive. So, it shouldn’t be any surprise that cell phones behind the wheel are now killing more teenagers every year than alcohol. We must teach young people about the dangers of distracted driving.

I recently spoke with Lodi’s Chief of Police about distracted driving. The laws against it are difficult to enforce. In order to curb this behavior, we must educate the public about its seriousness and deadliness.

That is why I am vigorously partnering with a new nationwide initiative to raise awareness of distracted driving. This campaign was launched by a safety organization called “We Save Lives,” which was founded recently by the same person who established Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) almost four decades ago. In many ways, distracted driving is the new drunk driving.

So we are asking every individual who uses a smartphone to help us educate the public. How does that work? Simple.

You may recall a tiny postscript that appears automatically on emails you send from your phone. For instance, mine says “Sent by my iPhone.” You can edit that line by adding an important phrase to the end: “BUT NOT WHILE DRIVING!”

If you can make this change, you’ll be automatically repeating a life-saving reminder to friends, family, and coworkers — with every email you send. Please go to www.ButNotWhileDriving.org for step-by-step instructions on how you can update your phone. It just might save a life.

Dr. Alan Nakanishi is the Mayor pro Tempore of Lodi and a medical doctor, and previously served in the California State Legislature from 2002 to 2008.