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Stop for Students: The dangerous distances you drive when distracted 

Nov 7, 2023, 11:03 PM | Updated: Nov 8, 2023, 7:16 am

TAYLORSVILLE – Every time you use a device behind the wheel, experts say you’re effectively driving blindfolded. Depending on how fast you’re driving, the distance you travel while your eyes are on that “quick text” may surprise you.  

Research shows reading a typical text message will take you roughly 4.6 seconds. If you’re driving 55 miles per hour, your car would cross an entire football field before you looked up.  

“Think about everything that could happen if your eyes are off the road for the length of a football field,” UDOT spokesperson John Gleason said. “Terrible things. And unfortunately, we’ve seen that happen.” 

So far this year, 33 pedestrians have been hit and killed by cars in Utah. Some of those lives lost were young children who were hit while trying to get to and from school.  

“I can’t think of anything more risky than distracted driving in a school zone,” Gleason said.  

With typical speeds in school zones much lower than 55 mph drivers may believe a quick text isn’t quite as dangerous. But in a test in an empty parking lot, KSL’s experiment found distances traveled even at 20mph are significant and your car is going to cover more ground than you think.  

Sending a text message can take between four and eight seconds. In that time, at 20mph, your car would travel 100-200 feet. Imagine traveling that far, in a crowded school zone, with your eyes closed. It seems outrageous but it’s something drivers do in Utah every single day. 

“There are a lot of people who think that they’re good at multitasking but honestly, the only reason they haven’t been involved in a crash is pure luck,” Gleason said. 

The statistics back him up. Studies have shown that a distracted driver is 15 times more likely to fail to yield to a pedestrian. They’re four times more likely to hit a pedestrian than drivers who aren’t distracted.  

“It can happen to all of us. We’re susceptible to it,” Gleason said. “The guarantee that you’re not going to get in a crash by texting is don’t text. Put that phone away when you’re driving.”

This story is part of an ongoing KSL TV initiative called “Stop for Students”. We encourage all Utahns to share their stories and solutions as we work together to prevent more pedestrian tragedies in our state. Show your support and spread the word by requesting a decal of your own.  

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Stop for Students: The dangerous distances you drive when distracted