April Is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

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Accidents happen in split seconds, so every second is precious when drivers are behind the wheel. For example, even when a driver is alert, aware and fully focused on the road, it usually takes two seconds for them to recognize and react to a hazard, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials. That means it takes two whole seconds, on average, for a driver just to put their foot on the brake—actually slowing down or stopping the vehicle is another matter entirely.  While this two-second delay is a neuro-cognitive response that all human beings cannot help but experience, distracted driving is voluntary and completely avoidable.

In order to heighten driving awareness, the month of April has been christened Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This article takes a deep dive into the pressing message of Distracted Driving Awareness Month and highlights programs and resources that will encourage you, your loved ones and even your business to make safe driving a lifetime habit.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Although the dangers of distracted driving are well known, Distracted Driving Awareness Month hopes to turn that general consciousness into real-time behind-the-wheel vigilance. Indeed, it is amazing to note the nonchalance with which the modern individual can hurtle down the highway at 60 miles an hour in a car that weighs nearly two and a half tons. Far from white-knuckling the wheel in a state of high anxiety, our 21st-century citizen is calm, cool and collected—and often distracted by a cell phone.

When it comes to driving, texting is the No. 1 distraction, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Nowadays, texting and driving causes one out of four crashes. If a driver sends or reads a text, their eyes are off the road for a full five seconds; in a vehicle traveling at 55 mph, that's "like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed," notes the NHTSA.

Drivers that text are 23 times more likely to get into a crash than non-texting drivers, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation reports. Furthermore, drivers who text are six times more likely to be involved in an accident than a drunk driver. For those of us who have lost a loved one due to this diabolical absent-mindedness, Werner Herzog's 2013 Netflix documentary, From One Second to the Next, exposes the folly and heartbreaking consequences of texting while driving—distracted driving is a harsh, unforgettable reality.

But we are doing more than just texting in our speeding cars: We are sipping and spilling coffee, adjusting the navigation system, changing the radio station, taking off our coat, applying makeup, scrounging for something under the seat, checking social media, squinting at a billboard, and talking to one of our passengers. Indeed, a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that driver-passenger interaction caused a whopping 15 percent of crashes nationwide.

Distracted driving awareness means never taking your full attention from the road. Distracted driving awareness means driving defensively. Distracted driving awareness means not just recognizing but actively and consistently refraining from the driving distractions that are making America's roads more dangerous than ever.

Raising Distracted Driving Awareness

During the country's driving awareness month,  there will be several media crusades to stamp out distracted driving and change motorists' behavior:

Running from April 5 to April. 12, the national One Text or Call Could Wreck It All media campaign puts a spotlight on drivers' cell-phone use and its dire effects. The message is supported by the facts and statistics. For example, at any moment in the U.S., about 660,000 drivers are using or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has remained the same since 2010.

Currently, 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands forbid all drivers from text messaging; 25 states and territories ban drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving; and 39 states and territories have prohibited cell-phone use by teen or novice drivers.

On April 8, a four-hour national distracted driving enforcement and awareness initiative, called Connect to Disconnect, hopes to galvanize a commitment among state highway safety offices and law enforcement agencies to enforce texting laws in a fair and equitable way, reduce traffic crashes caused by distracted drivers, and prevent injuries and deaths associated with cell-phone use and texting while driving.

Another national campaign will also share vital information to raise awareness, reminding motorists of the perils and legal consequences of texting behind the wheel. Running from April 8 to April 12, the U Drive. U Text. U Pay. effort will include increased law enforcement on the roadways, looking specifically for drivers who are using their cell phone to either talk or text.

Finally, the National Safety Council offers defensive-driving courses for businesses. In fact, the NSC created the country's first defensive driving course in 1964. Since then, the council has trained more than 75 million drivers in all 50 states and around the world. To check out the courses and see how your company might benefit, go to nsc.org.

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Distracted Driving Leads to Injury and Death

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving killed 3,142 people in 2019, a 10 percent increase over 2018. In this age of ever-increasing distractions, more than 700 people are injured in distracted driving crashes on a typical day, reports the National Safety Council.

Here are some fast facts about distracted driving from an April 2020 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Eight percent of fatal crashes, 15 percent of injury crashes, and 14 percent of all police-reported vehicle traffic crashes in 2018 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.

  • In 2018, 2,841 people were killed, and an estimated additional 400,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers.

  • Five percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. Eight percent of drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the fatal crashes.

  • In 2018, 506 nonoccupants (pedestrians, bicyclists and others) were killed in distraction-affected crashes.

But the main emphasis of Distracted Driving Awareness Month is on the great risks associated with using a cell phone while on our roadways. Share this information with the people you care about—texting or talking on your phone could lead to tragedy in a matter of seconds.

Tips to Improve Driving Awareness

Smart drivers are defensive drivers. On the road, they always err on the safe side. They leave room for reaction time and less-than-ideal conditions, and they pay attention to their braking, a skill that can increase their margin of safety. Defensive drivers know the dangers associated with driving and the need to react quickly to hazards. Distracted Driving Awareness Month wants every driver to make a pledge to safe driving.

Since this April's main message addresses the texting-while-driving epidemic, here are some tips to avoid phone-related crashes, injuries and deaths from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation and the National Safety Council.

  • Never use a cell phone when driving a vehicle. That means no texting, scrolling, dialing, talking or "just checking."

  • If you need to send a text, pull over to the side of the road and park in a safe location.

  • Make one of your passengers your "designated texter." Keep your eyes on the road and let them respond to your calls and messages.

  • If your driver is using a cell phone or otherwise distracted, tell them to stop and focus on the road.

  • Encourage people you know to drive phone-free.

  • To avoid temptation until you get to your destination, put your cell phone in the vehicle's glove box, back seat or trunk.

During this driving awareness month, it's important to share this safe-driving message with friends, family, colleagues and your social media community.

Awareness Month Is for All Drivers

Whether you're driving a car, a semi-truck or a forklift, attentive driving is more important than ever. Distracted Driving Awareness Month is only in April, but its message about the dangers of distracted driving are timeless. You can even pledge not to drive distracted, then share your pledge on social media to spread the word: #JustDrive.

If Distracted Driving Awareness Month causes you to consider your and others' driving habits, it may also prompt you to think about your insurance needs. Insurance-company comparison website SmartFinancial supports Distracted Driving Awareness Month and helps drivers like you to mitigate  risk and liability.

Insurance Rates and Distracted Driving

Even if you're lucky enough not to experience a car crash or even a scratch on your car, you can be pulled over for texting or using your phone while driving. A ticket for distracted driving will raise your rates.

Whether or not you have been caught breaking the law by using your phone while driving, distracted driving is a deadly habit you should break immediately.

If you're looking for lower car insurance rates, just call 855-214-2291 to speak one-on-one with one of our agents or begin the comparison process by entering your zip code below.

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