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Kalamazoo Group Fights Distracted Driving

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Charles Krupa
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A group based in Kalamazoo is trying to get drivers to keep their eyes off their phones and on the road.

Fathers Against Distracted Driving was started in 2013. Its president, Marv Berkowitz, says texting while driving is often deadly.

"If you text four words driving at 55 miles an hour, you've had your eye off the road the equivalent of a football field."

Berkowitz says distracted driving is especially a problem with teen drivers who have four times as many serious crashes as adults. "Fifty percent of teens will be in a crash, either as a driver or a passenger, before they graduate high school."

But Berkowitz admits that fighting the urge to fiddle with electronics behind the wheel is an "uphill battle."

"We have all kinds of incentives to do that that are provided by the vehicle manufacturers, by the the manufacturers of the smartphones. And so, there is a great impetus to do this."

Michigan State Police say drivers distracted by mobile phones cause 40 percent of serious accidents. Berkowitz says FADD is recruiting students in area high schools to persuade their friends to put their phones down while driving.

"What we're looking to do is get a minimum of one teen per high school to join Operation Teen Driver and to take the responsibility of doing peer-to-peer contact and getting 25 of their peers to literally sign a 'No Texting' pledge."

Berkowitz says offering safe driving tips is harder now because of COVID-19. But Berkowitz says FADD isn't giving up, "Because crashes and fatalities, injuries, and huge economic losses are not going to go away with or without the virus."

And Berkowitz says parents play a critical role in keeping young drivers safe.

"I found out the hard way that if you work with the teens and you get them on your side, and then they go home and drive with parents who are doing precisely what you asked them not to do, what have you gained?"

Berkowitz says FADD is offering virtual safe driving sessions for people of all ages this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can get more information on the FADD website, by calling (269) 323-9578, or by emailing faddmail (at) gmail (dot) com.

Andy Robins has been WMUK's News Director since 1998 and a broadcast journalist for over 24 years. He joined WMUK's staff in 1985. Under his direction, WMUK has received numerous awards for news reporting.