Bill Paterson drives on Southwest Florida’s roads and likes to cycle on the side.
“Cell phones are number one,” Paterson said, referring to the major distraction he said he encounters. He expresses his frustration as it puts himself and everyone else in danger.
“People [are] always on their cell phones,” Paterson said. “You can always tell. They go a little bit slow.”
Distracted driving is one of the four D’s law and health officials are warning SWFL drivers about as we approach the month of December.
“We want to make the holidays a safer time on the roads for everyone,” Captain Jay Rodriguez said, who works at the Fort Myers Police Department.
Rodriguez, a 20-year police veteran, said distracted drowsy driving is a big problem this time of year. Most notably late at night, early predawn hours and mid-afternoon.
“There is always something to look at other than the road,” David Newlan said, chief of the Cape Coral Police Department. “Your full attention is having both hands on the wheel and your vision focused on the roadway and surroundings.”
Drinking and driving.
Lt. Dennis Petracca from Lee County Sheriff’s Office, said that is a big problem year round — especially in December.
“We have DUI saturation opps and DUI check points planned for this month,” Petracca said.
These operations have been known to decrease drunk driving on Lee County roads, which comes at a time with many driver deaths. As of Nov. 1, there have been 74 fatalities on roadways in Lee County.
“You don’t realize that a car is 4,000-5,000 pounds,” Dr. Scott Patterson said, a trauma surgeon at Lee Health. “This becomes a weapon and becomes lethal.”
Dr. Patterson said the fourth “D,” drugs, can put a lot of people in danger.
That can include over the counter medications, which can make you sleepy or impair your judgement.
“You can get killed,” Dr. Patterson said.
Which is exactly what Paterson is hoping to avoid this holiday season, with the hope that it continues in upcoming years.
Having to worry about being involved in a crash during his downtime is not a state of mind he wants to be occupied with. Lee County has seen 182 bicycle crashes this year, of which three were fatalities.
“If you’re a bike rider,” he said, “you have to be very careful.”