‘If You Love Me,’ pay attention

They’re out there. They’re talking on their cell phones. They’re sending text messages. They’re ejecting the CD that’s playing and reaching for another one. They’re changing radio stations when ads come on. Yes, they’re doing all this while their driving on our highways and roads.

Such behavior is making driving more dangerous, raising the odds of accidents, and it needs to come to a screeching stop, especially when you consider the long stretches of Kauai’s narrow, two-lane highways where there is little room for error.

If the “Stop If You Love Me” campaign is successful, more people will pay attention on the road.

From Feb. 6-10, the Hawaii State Department of Education’s Driver Education Program will work with student advocates to push drivers, passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists to eliminate dangerous behaviors and to also educate young people about the risks those behaviors present.

The “Stop If You Love Me” campaign is co-sponsored by Hawaii State Driver Education Program, DTRIC Insurance and Par Hawaii.

Through activities at their schools, youth advocates will address the topic of these dangerous habits with fellow students, reinforcing that such behavior risks the lives of those they love, including themselves.

In addition to spreading messages on driver, passenger, pedestrian and bicycle safety, the students will distribute over 35,000 campaign items, host presentations and sign- waving events, and encourage parents to sign a pledge to eliminate dangerous behaviors.

Forty schools on four islands have committed to participate in “Stop If You Love Me” week. On Kauai, those schools are Waimea Canyon Middle School and Kapaa, Kauai and Waimea High.

“We have been a supporter of safe driving for teens for more than 25 years,” said Jim Yates, president of Par Hawaii, which operates the larger of the state’s two refineries, logistics operations, and a statewide network of about 100 Tesoro- and 76-branded retail gasoline stations. “We’re glad to be continuing our partnership with the Department of Education and DTRIC to continue to address dangers of distracted driving in Hawaii.”

Yeah, most of the time, you can get away with using your cellphone while driving. Got to make some calls and send some texts. Got to drive with one hand on the wheel while changing radio stations or CDs. No accidents. So what’s the problem? Why all the fuss?

All it takes is one moment of carelessness to change your life and the lives of others out there on our roads. Too many traffic collisions are caused by driver distractions. Here are a few statistics from Distraction.gov:

w In 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

w Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes.

w At any given daylight moment across America, about 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.

w A 2015 Erie Insurance distracted driving survey reported that drivers do all sorts of dangerous things behind the wheel including brushing teeth and changing clothes. The survey also found that one-third of drivers admitted to texting while driving, and three-quarters said they’ve seen others do it.

w Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, five seconds is enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.

The numbers are clear.

We owe it to each other to drive smart and drive safe.

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