Monday, March 19, 2012

Hang Up and Live - Here’s another true story ..

Contributed by Norm Nyhuis, Trainer / Consultant, Evergreen Safety Council

For the past several years, Evergreen Safety Council has been urging people to “hang up and drive”.   

For the past two years, we have been asked to make presentations at the Washington StateGovernor’s Industrial Safety & Health Conference, on the subject of the dangers of distracted driving.  During those presentations, a short video clip has had a powerful impact on the audience.  This little clip originated in the United Kingdom, as an effort to graphically call attention to the problem of not only driving while distracted by mobile phone use, but that hazards exist for even pedestrians who are distracted by their mobile devices.  The video shows a group of teen age boys walking home after school and a similar group of teen age girls, also walking home, but on the other side of the street.  As the two groups become aware of each other’s presence, the audience realizes that a particular girl and boy are budding sweethearts.  Their friends tease them a bit, but then disperse so the two can presumable walk home together.  This scene is also enhanced by the music of Fats Domino singing his 50’s recording of “I want to walk you home”.  The young couple is the very picture of sweet and innocent, young love.  She raises her cell phone to text him  . . “Hi”  . . .  he grins self-consciously and steps off the curb to respond to her text, while crossing the street toward her.   He does not see it, but the audience is horrified as an approaching delivery van, strikes him.  The final scene is of a traditional English funeral procession where the pall bearers carry the coffin and a procession of mourners march along behind, still to the lyrics of “I want to walk you home”.
This footage is part of a series "Pay Attention, Don't Pay the Price" which is pretty graphic, but does get your attention. The storyline above starts at 1:10 and runs through 1:50.

Yes, distraction by an electronic device can be a hazard to even pedestrians.  I had this demonstrated to me in a frighteningly similar scenario, just a few evenings ago.  While proceeding down a two lane residential arterial street, in a relatively dark area, made more so because it was not only well after sunset but raining, a dim movement caught my eye, coming from my left.  A young man, dressed in a dark jacket, but thankfully wearing lighter colored pants – the movement of his legs was the only thing visible - was attempting to cross the street, in a place where drivers would not expect a pedestrian to cross as there is no crosswalk even close to that spot.

He was busy, apparently texting based on the way he was holding his mobile phone, and did not become aware of the presence of my truck and trailer bearing down on him until he heard the squeal of the tires as I nearly jack-knifed the rig to avoid running him down.  My wife was in the cab with me, and neither of us could believe we missed him by the scant few inches between us and him, when we stopped.   He continued hurrying through the rain, and I’m not certain the pedestrian even realized how close he came to becoming yet another sad statistic in the growing number of fatalities related to distraction.     

Once we both calmed enough to speak and continue on our way home, my wife and I couldn’t help but wonder how many time before this young man had crossed a street, obviously unaware of the danger of his actions.  Paying more attention to his phone, than to his surroundings.  

Please don’t become a statistic; don’t just hang up and drive, but keep your attention on where you are walking, and when you cross the street, especially after dark, in our typically rainy winter weather, hang up and live.    

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