Don’t give in to distractions while driving

Once upon a time, not so long ago, phones weren’t wireless, much less portable. Instant messaging could be done by computer — but texting on phone, not so much.

And distracted driving then might mean eating behind the wheel or fiddling with the radio, not trying to read what’s on the phone or tap out replies to texts while going nearly 60 mph or more down the highway.

That’s never a good idea. But this month brings more incentive — if common sense isn’t enough — to keep hands on the steering wheel and off the phone while driving.

For Distracted Driving Awareness Month, law enforcement in Michigan intend to pay special attention to those who obviously aren’t doing the same while operating a motor vehicle.

Distracted driving now accounts for about 16 percent of all fatal crashes in the U.S., or about 5,000 deaths on the road, according to AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In Wisconsin, 113 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2016 and 11,302 injured, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. That was up more than 6 percent from the previous year.

While not all of that can be blamed on texting, it likely figures into many of these fatalities.

In Michigan and Wisconsin, it’s illegal to text while driving. Talking on a cell phone, though discouraged, is still allowed unless on a probationary license or instruction permit in Wisconsin.

Michigan’s texting law, too, allows an officer to make the stop and write a ticket without having to witness some other violation.

According to the Driving Laws website, fines for texting while driving are $100 for a first offense and $200 for subsequent offenses.

So do everyone a favor, including yourself — put the phone aside, keep eyes on the road and better ensure you and others make it safely to your destination.

“Even though you may have a busy life and routinely try to multi-task, it’s time to put a stop to distracted driving habits, which put your life and the lives of others in grave danger,” said David Pabst, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety.