BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Getting behind the wheel these days is downright dangerous with all the distractions competing for drivers' attention.
According to a new study released Wednesday, April 12, Louisiana is ranked the worst state in the country for distracted driving, showing that roughly 45 percent of all trips in the Bayou State include phone use.
A new social media campaign called #TagYourHalf has been launched by AT&T in the hopes of changing that epidemic. "It encourages people, whether it's like your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your husband, your wife, mom, dad, brother, or sister to tag your better half," said Leonce Chavis.
Chavis, retail sales manager for the company, says it is all about limiting temptation. "Whether it's like a social media, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or whether it's just a text message that you really feel the urgency to reply back to, it's not worth a life and it's not worth an accident," said Chavis.
The goal behind the campaign is simple. As long as drivers are behind the wheel, answering a text or social media message should not be part of the commute. It's aimed at making sure more people are driving without distractions.
According to the LSU Highway Safety Research Group, last year, there were 2,410 crashes caused by phone usage. Three people lost their lives because of it. So far this year, there have been 611 distracted driving crashes with one death.
Suzanne Salter never takes off the bracelets created in her daughter, Nicole's, memory. "Each one of the has a different saying," she said.
Nicole was killed by a distracted driver in 2014 while on her way to Subway just off Hwy. 190 in Livonia. A distracted driver rear-ended her and the impact of the crash killed the 31-year-old instantly. Salter believes more needs to be done to stop the problem.
"There's no reason for this to have happened. All they have to do is put down the phone and they could save a life," said Salter.
She has devoted the past two years to seeking harsher penalties for those who break the law. "The technology of phones is moving faster than the laws can keep up with it and something needs to change," said Salter.
Until then, Salter says the problem is 100 percent preventable and is up to those behind the wheel to make the choice to stop. "So many people say it's not going to happen to them just like I thought I would never lose my daughter, but it does happen," she added.
While her daughter's killer was never indicted, Salter says her focus is no longer on what was taken from her, but instead on ensuring no other family has to suffer such a tragic loss. "I don't want to let another family go through the hardship that we did," she said.
Salter and her husband will join about 20 other families who've lost a loved one to distracted driving in Washington, D.C. on April 26 to advocate for stricter penalties for those who choose to drive while distracted.