Distracted driving on the roads

(KSNT) You see it every day, multiple times a day. Drivers eating, talking to passengers, fixing make-up, or texting behind the wheel.

Distracted driving is a major problem on the roads, and it is not simple to enforce.

“We had somebody killed that we love. And we’re angry about it,” said David Colburn, friend of Mark Jilka.

49-year-old Mark Jilka was riding his bike just outside of Manhattan, when he was hit and killed by an allegedly distracted driver, more than a week ago.

“It’s become far too easy for us to get distracted behind the wheel, and it’s become far too easy for us to just think that it’s a social norm and that it’s acceptable,” said Aaron Apel, friend of Mark Jilka.

Their protest in the form of a ghost bike, hoping it will remind everyone the dangers of not paying attention behind the wheel.

While texting and driving is against the law, distracted driving isn’t illegal in Kansas. Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes, mind, or hands away from driving: eating, changing the radio station, checking the kids in the back seat.

Police say more than 100,000 collisions nationwide are associated with distracted driving, injuring 421,000 people each year.

“When you get in your car, you need to focus on what you’re doing, where you’re going, where you’re headed,” said Lieutenant Josh Kellerman, with the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Making a phone call on a non-hands free device is legal in Kansas, except in Manhattan.

“If you’re going down the highway at 55 mph, in the time you’ve read that text, you’ve traveled a football field, without looking at the road, and a lot can happen in that distance,” said Matthew Droge, with the Riley County Police Department.

Manhattan’s cell phone ban went into effect in 2010, the same year Kansas enacted its texting ban.
In the first quarter of 2011, they wrote 532 tickets, and handed out 368 warnings. The first quarter of this year? 74 tickets, and 199 warnings. But if Manhattan’s drivers are paying attention to the ban, inattention is still the number one cause of an accident in Riley County.

“We’re focusing on areas, not so much car stops, so we’re not writing as many tickets, but we’re still out there enforcing,” said Droge.

“I’m one of those people that thought I could drive and text, drive and talk, I thought I was a good driver,” said Colburn. Mark Jilka’s friends say they should not have to use ghost bikes to make a simple point.

“It’s not that important that you talk to somebody right now, or you text somebody, if it is, pull off, it’s just that simple,” said Colburn.

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