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DPS Trooper Injured by 18-wheeler During Traffic Stop in Forney Highlights Important Distracted Driving Truth: Anything Can Be a Distraction

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Photo Credit: Chopper 11 (CBS DFW local)

This Thursday a DPS Trooper was injured on highway 80 while attempting to conduct a routine traffic stop of an 18-wheeler here in Forney, Kaufman County, Texas. It started out normal enough, but when the 18-wheeler travelling behind the Trooper failed to see traffic slowing in front of him, he slammed into the Trooper’s vehicle, causing the Trooper’s vehicle to hit the 18-wheeler that he was attempting to stop.

The first question to ask is “why did it happen?”

We do not know the whole story. All we have to go on is from CBS local’s story on it, which provides that the 18-wheeler simply failed to see the traffic was slowing ahead of him. But why?  Being in a big, tall semi-truck provides the driver with great visibility over the landscape around him. Presumably that visibility would be to his advantage because he can see further ahead of his vehicle than a driver of a passenger vehicle. So, why did he fail to see the slowing traffic? Was he look at something other than the road? Don’t get me wrong, I think Texas is full of beauty, but there aren’t any mountains to stare at off in the distance and highway 80 near Lawson is not a beacon of Texas beauty, but its possible.

Anything That “Distracts” the Driver While They Are Driving is “Distracted Driving”

Having said all that, figuring out exactly what the driver was distracted by that caused the accident is not the purpose of this article. I said all that to draw out a point: distracted driving is not just texting and driving. It is anything that takes your mind off the road. Distracted driving can be something as simple as allowing your mind to wander off in thought. It could be seeing a wild animal on the side of the road. It could talking with a passenger in the vehicle. IT COULD BE ANYTHING.

Let’s think about this a little more: say you are on a long road trip. You’re in a nice new car. Seats are comfortable. Temperature control is exactly how you want it for your “zone” of the car. Radio is on. Kids are in the back talking, playing games, watching TV. Spouse is talking to you. You have been on the road for 6 hours and the ride so far has gone smoothly and your mind begins to wander. You look out the window at the new sights that maybe your eyes have never seen before, or, at least, have not seen for a while. If you stare at a sight outside your vehicle for 3 seconds while you are traveling 65 mph you have just traveled  286 feet (according to http://www.calculateme.com/Speed/MilesperHour/ToFeetperSecond.htm). That is almost the length of a football field in just 3 seconds.

Now count out three seconds in your head. That is not very long, is it?

Now think about this: how many times do you think you have looked at something while driving in the car for 5 seconds? 10 seconds? If you looked at something for 10 seconds without looking at road while traveling 65 mph, you just went over 953 feet without looking at the road. That is more than three football fields without looking at what is going on around you.  You weren’t looking to make sure you were following the road. You weren’t looking at the speed of traffic. You weren’t looking at what other drivers were doing in front of you, such as lane changes and aggressive driving, or slowing down.

How long does it take to send a text? Read an article? Change the radio? Tell the kids to stop fighting? Probably at least three seconds. A lot can happen in that amount of time, not because three seconds is a long time, but because the vehicles we drive travel great distances in a very short amount of time. Everything is sped up. That means that margin for error is even smaller.

CONCLUSION

Distracted driving is anything that takes your mind away from the road ahead of you. It could be anything inside or outside your vehicle. It could even be your mind wandering. It does not have to be your phone, the radio, or any of the other common excuses. Distracted driving is a choice. When you allow yourself to be distracted by something, you are putting yourself and other people on the road at risk of serious bodily injury and even death. It is easy to forget that, in today’s modern cars and trucks, we are driving 4,000lb missiles down these highways at speeds that we do not fully understand. 65 mph does not sound that fast and is a common highway speed limit through Dallas and Kaufman county. But when you break down that speed into feet per second, you see that we really are driving at incredible high speeds.

Knowing all this, we must treat driving like we do any other potentially dangerous activity: with caution and great care. We need to remember that one wrong move can hurt or kill someone else and ourselves. Accidents like the one we saw on Thursday in Forney  are all too common place, and the excuse for why it happened is also all too common place: the driver was distracted by something and failed to see that the traffic ahead of him. This is not even to say that the driver was doing anything like texting or anything. We have no idea what it was that distracted him. It could have been the DPS trooper vehicle in front him that distracted him. It could be anything. Like I said before: that is not the point. The point is that the driver was distracted by something and he failed to see traffic slowing. What that “something” was is totally irrelevant to this article. The existence of distraction IS the point. Because the driver allowed himself to be distracted, the DPS trooper was injured and had to be extricated from his vehicle. Because he was distracted, the highway was shut down for several hours to help the Trooper, help clean up the mess from the collision of the vehicles. His distraction caused personal injuries, property damage, and lost time to hundreds, if not thousands of other drivers on the roadway. That time the other drivers on the road could have spent at home with their kids, spouse, dog. Time lost at work to support themselves or their family. Time lost doing anything other than being stuck in traffic waiting for first responders to clean up the mess you created. Don’t let yourself be the one who has that feeling. Pay attention to the road at all costs.

For more information on the DPS Trooper who was injured, check for updates here

DPS Trooper’s SUV Hit From Behind By 18-Wheeler In Forney

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