Police try new approach to stop distracted driving

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LANSING, MI. (WILX) -- Police have put a lot of time and energy into preventing distracted driving in the last few years.

Thursday, police demonstrated how little time drivers have to react to a car in front of them.

But it's not stopping the problem.

The chances of being in a car crash increase dramatically in bad weather or bad traffic conditions, but when you're driving distracted, whether that's being on your phone or changing the radio station, those crashes happen much more often.

"Every day we see some sort of distracted driving,” said Sergeant Nick Darlington with the Michigan State Police. “I've seen people putting makeup on, reading the newspaper, laptops in the passenger compartment, so they're reaching over and typing."

"All those things are taking your eyes off the road and we want people to pay attention," said MSP Captain Kyle Bowman.

Thursday, police demonstrated how little time drivers have to react to a car in front of them.

That reaction time decreases quickly with a phone in your hand.

"If you're not paying attention, you don't have a lot of time to react," said Bowman.

"The average text message takes your eyes off the road for five seconds," said Darlington.

At 70 miles per hour, you can travel more than the length of a football field those five seconds.

The number of distracted drivers in Michigan is staggering, and police say it's only getting worse.

"Between 2016 and 2018, there were 223,000 traffic crashes that were people weren't paying attention to the vehicles in front of them," said Bowman.

Between that and following too closely, car crashes happen more than they should.

"These crashes we're seeing on the freeway are preventable," said Darlington.

Police hope that their demonstration will show drivers how dangerous distracted and close driving can be.

"Our only other option is to take enforcement action and write a ticket. That's not our goal, we don't want to have to do that, but we will to keep the motoring public safe," said Bowman.

So just remember, when you're behind the wheel, there's nothing as important, not even your phone, as getting to your destination in one piece.

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