April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and distracted driving is a problem Lee County residents are all too familiar with: In 2020, there were 1,907 crashes involving distracted drivers in Lee County, compared with 242 crashes involving drunk drivers. This aligns with a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which concluded that texting and driving is six times more dangerous than drunk driving.
If that’s not enough to make you put your phone down while you’re on the road, consider this: Sending a text typically takes your eyes off the road for five seconds—if you’re driving at 55 mph, you will end up driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
Southwest Florida drivers had a lot to say about their experiences with others using their phones on the road.
“I see a lot of people on their phones every day, all the time,” said Butch Foraker, of Lee County. “You’ll stop at a light and people will be beeping and, sure enough, you look over and 10 cars are passed and a lady or whoever is sitting there on their phone.”
“I’ve been blindsided and hit in the side, so a lot of accidents happen like that; you just have to pay attention to the road and pay attention to others,” said Derrionte Henry, of Fort Myers. “People are on their phones, even looking at the signs on the side of the road… because if you take your eyes off the road, that’s it—anything can happen, and there’s a lot of accidents that happen out here.”
“Whenever I see someone even slow up on 75, historically, as you get next to them you’ll see that they’re usually on a phone,” said Jerry Smirniotis, of Collier County.
“I was on the interstate, and they weren’t paying attention, and he came over into my lane and [passenger] Greg said ‘Oh, he’s on his phone,'” said Butch Foraker, of Lee County.
Here is a refresher on the rules of the road:
- No texting while your car is moving.
- You can use the phone at red lights, while stopped.
- You can have your GPS up while the car is moving but—for your safety—try to do that while your car is stopped.
- If you are in a school or work zone, you cannot touch your phone at all.