How often have you been in the car and you look over and see someone looking down at their phone- maybe texting? Or holding the phone up to their ear talking?
Far too often.
We all know it’s not safe or legal.
For those who have lost loved ones, like the Goeltz family, because of this dangerous behavior, it’s devastating.
Megan Goeltz was 22-years-old, the mother of a young daughter and on her way to her parent’s house when her car was struck by a driver who was texting.
“He traveled 347 feet and there were no skid marks at all,” Megan’s father Tom Goeltz said. “And that’s what happens in these distracted driving crashes, people don’t slow down before they hit the pile.”
On February 29, 2016, he got a call no parent should ever get.
“She died at the scene and unfortunately she was pregnant at the time of the crash,” Goeltz said. “We lost a grandson as well. He should be about 5 and a half years old right now.”
Now, Goeltz works with the National Safety Council or NSC which is based in Itasca. He advocates for stricter laws around distracted driving.
And hopes by telling his daughter’s story, he can stop these preventable deaths.
“You relive the crash. You relive the time that you spent with your daughter and you see the pictures, but you know if I can save a couple of people’s lives by talking about what I’m doing, it’s worth it,” Goeltz said.
But according to Jenny Burke with the NSC, risky road behaviors have only increased during the pandemic.
“We had made a lot of headway prior to Covid starting, and unfortunately, all of those behaviors sort of took a step back during Covid, so even though we had less people driving on the road, we had more fatalities,” she said.
Preliminary data released by the NSC estimates more than 46,000 people died on US roads last year.
That’s a nearly 20% increase compared to 2019.
Part of the problem is driving distracted.
“When you look down at your phone, and then you look back up at the road, it takes 4.6 seconds to actually focus on the road again,” Burke said. “That’s the length of a football field if you’re driving.”
It’s behavior people can stop before it’s too late.
“I just feel her … going, ‘Keep going Dad, keep going. Try to make a little bit of a difference on this,’” Goeltz said. “Even though I don’t feel like I’m making a difference, I keep going for my granddaughter, and all the little kids out there because they deserve better.”
It may seem obvious, but if you are expecting a text message, pull over and park your car in a safe location.
Ask a passenger to be a designated texter.
Turn on your phone’s “do not disturb” feature.
Those are just some ways to avoid being tempted by texting and driving.