Life Lessons

Life Lessons: Distracted driving: Garrett's story

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates at any moment during the day, over 600,000 drivers are handling electronic devices. When you send a text, you take your eyes off the road for about five seconds. That is the time it takes to drive the length of an entire football field.  One woman is leading the charge to put tougher texting and driving laws in place.

“His nickname was 'Smiles' because he loved everybody unconditionally,” said Trisha Viccaro.

Garrett Viccaro was about to turn 25. Working as a chef, he had plans to join the Air Force. Two nights shy of his birthday, he and his best friend, Justin Mitchell, were both struck and killed by a man who was texting and driving.

“Because he was so distracted and so busy looking at his phone, he didn’t even know anything had happened," Viccaro said.

Garrett’s story is heartbreaking. It is unfortunately, also one of many. Public safety officer Darren Dillon sees distracted drivers behind the wheel-every day.

“They need to think about their actions because it’s just the same as a DUI, you know it could have the same consequences” says Dillon.

But in many cases, there is not the same penalty. Some states like south Dakota and Florida list texting as a secondary offense, which means the driver cannot be pulled over for texting unless they are breaking another law, yet one out of four car accidents in the U.S. are caused by texting and driving. And 64 percent of all accidents have cell phones involved, yet only 14 states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones.

“Put the phone down it’s not worth your life or somebody else’s life," Dillon advised.

Viccaro never imagined she’d lose her son in the prime of his life. She’s trying to make a positive change from her personal tragedy by actively lobbying her lawmakers to make texting and driving a primary offense in her home state of Florida.

"They need to support this. If you hate it, do something about it don’t sit at home," she said.

Each year over 400,000 people are injured in crashes that involved a driver who was distracted in some way. Top distractions include not only cell phone use but eating, drinking, talking to passengers, and grooming. And the distraction “latency” lasts an average of 27 seconds. Meaning even after drivers stop fiddling with devices, they aren’t fully engaged with the driving task.


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