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Area legislator calls distracted driving an epidemic

A local lawmaker wants to take on what he calls an epidemic and a dangerous practice.


State Senator Tony Hwang, whose district includes Newtown, says data about distracted driving is stunning.  He says 1 in 4 accidents is caused by distracted driving, and that 11 teenagers die a day in America because of distracted driving.  Hwang also cited a statistic that a distracted driver is 6 times more likely to get into an accident that someone who is legally drunk.


Hwang is concerned about the number of near misses that have occurred.


A neuroscientist in Utah found that 5 seconds taken away from driving to look at a phone requires 20-plus seconds to refocus.  Driving at 55mph, that's like travelling the entire length of a football field without looking.


A recent survey found 77-percent of adults and 55-percent of teenagers acknowledge that distracted driving is a problem, but the same percentages said it doesn't happen to them and they can manage it.


Hwang says that false confidence of "it can't happen to me" perpetuates a comfort that drivers shouldn't have.  He is now trying to raise awareness in the schools and with adults about the need to do more to change patterns and habits.


25 or 30 years ago driving without a seatbelt was normal, and Hwang says there is the same need to move public opinion on cell phone use while behind the wheel.


Hwang says the message can be simple: drop the phone, focus on driving, be safe.

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