That Text Can Wait: Save a Life by Avoiding Distractions While Driving

Distracted driving
Man looking at mobile phone while driving a car.


By Jenna Hirsch, Director of Safety and Loss Control

Some temptations are hard to resist. While driving, we typically hear that “ding” on our phone, alerting us to a text or call, and we sometimes feel the urgent need to check it. We know we shouldn’t, but we reason that we’ll make an exception — “just this once.”

Why do we indulge in behavior we know to be wrong, dangerous and, in Colorado, illegal? Call it hubris. According to AAA research, most people feel they are better-than-average drivers. We have busy lives and are accustomed to multitasking. However, mounds of research and thousands of deaths every year prove otherwise.

August is Back to School Safety Month. As a new school year begins with young drivers and school buses back on the road, this is a good time to remind folks of the dangers of distracted driving.

The reality is that using a phone while driving creates enormous potential for injuries and fatalities. Distractions take a motorist’s attention off driving, which can make a driver miss critical events, objects, and cues, potentially leading to a crash.

In July, CREA hosted a statewide conference for Colorado electric co-ops’ safety personnel. The group of safety experts heard an important presentation from Michal Michalkow about the dangers of distracted driving. Michal owns First Gear Skid School, a defensive driving academy that focuses on education and prevention. As a former paramedic, Michal has seen firsthand what can happen when people give their attention to technology while driving. He shared countless personal accounts from his time responding to motor vehicle accidents. He also reminded the group that the impact of being involved in a traffic accident will always carry a number of emotional, financial, and social consequences.

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that one out of every 10 fatal crashes in the U.S. involves distracted driving, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths annually. I find this statistic heartbreaking considering that so many of these accidents could easily be avoided if we’d simply put down our phones while driving.

Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts our attention, including texting or talking on the phone, and adjusting the navigation or entertainment system. Texting is by far one of the most dangerous distractions. Sending or reading one text takes your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

In addition to refraining from texting while driving, we can help keep the roads safe by following Colorado’s new “Move Over for Me” law that takes effect this month. This requires you to move over a lane whenever you encounter any stationary vehicle with its hazard or emergency lights flashing. If you can’t move over, you must slow down.

For all of Colorado’s electric cooperatives, safety is foremost in everything we do — for co-op employees and the members of the communities we serve. Your co-op routinely reminds its crews of the dangers of distracted driving, and we hope you’ll have similar conversations with your family members and loved ones — whether they are a seasoned driver or new to the roadways.

Let’s work together to keep everyone safe on the roads. And remember: That text can wait and waiting just might save a life.


Jenna Hirsch is the Director of Safety and Loss Control at CREA, the statewide trade association that represents your electric co-op. She has an extensive background in safety, including training, incident investigation and management; regulatory standard interpretation and program implementation; and performing safety audits and risk assessments.