GREENVILLE — Thursday’s Darke County Safety Council Meeting, part of the Darke County Chamber of Commerce, focused on distracted driving through a presentation “Distracted Driving: Get your Head out of your Apps” by Darke County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Doug Didier.
“One distraction costs a reaction,” Didier said. “A distraction is anything that will interrupt your concentration and focus. We could probably drive down the road at any given moment and see people on their phones. This is the world we live in.”
Didier explained that the distractions are many times due to texting while driving, but other forms are just as interfering, such as: eating, changing the radio station, talking on the phone hands – free or not, conversing with another passenger and applying makeup. Distracted driving can result in deaths and accidents that can be avoided.
Didier read some statistics about texting while driving, including the following: the average time individuals look at their phones for a text message is approximately five seconds; at any moment during daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are handling cell phones or other electronic devices while driving in the United States; one is three times more likely to get into an accident while driving distracted by handling a mobile device; nine people die every day in the United States from driving distracted; and 11 percent of car accidents leading to fatalities are related to distracted driving.
“These statistics are based in what is proven, either by self-admission or research,” Didier said. “The belief is the numbers are much higher.”
According to Didier, ways in which law enforcement are combating the problem are as follows: texting and driving in the state is illegal, but it is not a primary offense unless one is under the age of 18; the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits all commercial drivers from using hand-held mobile devices while operating commercial vehicles; it is illegal in the state to use a cell phone, in any way, within the first 12 months of earning a driver’s license; and any driver under the age of 18 may not use a cellphone in any way, even after holding a drivers license for 12 months.
“I tell my kids to shut it off when they get in their car; they know where I stand,” Didier said. “I told them, if it can’t wait to pull over. We all know about deer on the side of the road this time of year. Many things can happen in a city with children and other animals. Keep those things in the back of your mind while you are driving.”
Didier explained that a misconception of the Sheriff’s office, is that it tries to accumulate as many charges against people as possible.
“We are the voice of the victim; and sometimes that victim cannot speak,” he said. “It is up to us to make sure we cross ever “t” and dot every “i” to be that victim’s voice.”
Darke County Safety Council Secretary, Treasurer and Manager Sharon Deschambeau said the Darke County Sheriff’s Office is a great resource to businesses in the county.
“Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker has been very instrumental in working with our chamber (Darke County Chamber of Commerce),” she said. “Almost four years ago he started talking about the heroin issue and that relationship has grown. He has opened the door to the chamber, the safety council and other avenues for communication with law enforcement, which is a very integral part of what we do as businesses.”
Chief Deputy Whittaker told The Daily Advocate that the Darke County Sheriff’s Office offers speakers on a number of law enforcement, crime prevention and safety topics. The most common requests are talks or education on drugs in the community, he said. The office also has and continues to provide “Active Shooter/Active Threat” education and training to local businesses, churches and most schools in the county.
“This program can be tailored based on a company’s need and available time,” Whittaker said. “Some programs are strictly one to two hour presentations, up to longer comprehensive presentations and simulated training. Often times these presentations begin with a tour and review of the locations floor plan and security risks. We make recommendations and suggestions on how to make the location better prepared for a possible threat.”
The Sheriff’s Office also provides information on scams and crimes against seniors, Whittaker said. In addition, it has programs geared towards students, such as: distracted and impaired driving, sexting and internet safety. It also provides overview presentations to local clubs and organizations on the Sheriff’s Office, Jail and its operations.
“The Darke County Sheriff’s Office is committed to educating the public we serve and being transparent about our operations,” Whittaker said. “There is no charge for these programs. We encourage any business or organization in the community that is interested in one of our programs to please contact the Darke County Sheriff’s Office at 937-548-3399. An informed and educated public makes a safer community.”
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