Remington Beno was at a red light when she suddenly realized she left something at home. She reached for her phone to call her brother. When she saw a flash of green, she stepped on the gas.
But the light was still red. It was the left arrow that had turned green. Because her eyes were looking down, her hands distracted and her mind not focused on the road, Beno rear-ended the car in front of her.
“I thought to myself, ‘How did I do that?’ I just felt so stupid. I should’ve been more cautious and looked up first,” the freshman communication studies major said. “It could’ve been worse. It could’ve been a person walking the crosswalk in front of me.”
Last month was Distracted Driving Awareness month, created by the National Safety Council, aimed to educate and raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. In April 2015, California Highway Patrol issued 18,000 citations statewide for distracted driving said Wayne Ziese, the spokesperson of the California Office of Traffic Safety.
These numbers, however, are hardly exact. There are several obstacles that prevent law enforcement from being able to properly measure the number of distracted drivers, Ziese said.
“It’s very difficult for law enforcement to track this kind of data. All they can do is estimate,” Ziese said. “Many cases go unreported due to the inability to get a truthful statement or an eyewitness at the scene of a car crash, or the driver is killed in the crash and cannot relate to what happened.”
Ziese recommends that people turn off cell phones completely when driving.
“Technology is the biggest distraction. Turn off the things that cause you not to focus on the thing at hand and that’s driving,” Ziese said. “By silencing the distraction, you have such a better chance to arrive alive.”
Dylan Bowman said he never uses his phone while driving.
“My phone stays firmly on my passenger seat or in my pocket,” the freshman computer science major said. “If I ever need to send a text or whatever, if I’m with somebody, I hand it to them or I pull over because it doesn’t take that long to get off the road.”
Beno says distracted driving has become the norm, admitting to occasionally calling and texting, and even using Snapchat while driving.
Bowman says there are certain filters that may encourage people to drive and Snapchat at the same time, specifically the filter that tracks the user’s speed at the time the picture or video was taken.
“That one needs to go away. The only reason I see it being used is for snapping and driving,” Bowman said. “It’s a clever filter, but I don’t think it’s useful.”
This Snapchat filter has become the epicenter of a lawsuit filed against Snapchat by former Uber driver Wentworth Maynard. In September 2015, 18-year-old Christal McGee reached a speed of over 100 mph in a 55 mph zone in hopes of posting the video on Snapchat, according to Maynard’s lawyer’s website.
Before she could post the video to her story, McGee crashed into Maynard at a speed of 107 mph at the moment of impact. This collision “caused trauma to his body and brain that would alter the rest of his life,” Lead Attorney Michael L. Neff wrote on the website.
Beno says the constant influx of media while driving seems to be the norm.
“I guess it’s just because it’s a mentality that teenagers and young adults have now – to stay in touch and to always up to date, and to feel like you need to be on your phone at all times even if it is dangerous,” Beno said, “which is horrible and I think about it after and I think, ‘Why would you ever put your life in danger like that?’”
Teen driver fatalities, age 16-19, increased 26.4 percent from 72 fatalities in 2013 to 91 in 2014, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.
Beno also said that she has been in the car while a friend is driving while using a phone.
“I mean, I can’t judge because I do it too. I don’t really think about the dangers of the moment as it’s happening,” Beno said. “People get wrapped up and they don’t realize it’s not only them they’re affecting when they’re on their phones. There are people that could be outside your car or inside your car and as soon as you look away, you’re putting those people in danger too.”
Bowman struggles to understand people who choose to browse through social media or snap a selfie.
“People need to put their safety before popularity,” Bowman said. “You can’t be popular when you’re dead.”
Sgt. Fred Lopez, the Orange Police Department’s public information officer, said there were 302 tickets issued for distracted driving in April this year.
“Distracted driving is distracted driving. It doesn’t matter how … if you’re putting on mascara, eating a cheeseburger and driving with your knee or sending a text,” Lopez said. “What’s the safest speed to be using your phone, or doing of the any other activities? Zero mph. How can you be paying attention to the road when you’re distracted?”