Focus on the Road: Distracted Driving Awareness Month
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April 2023 marks the 14th annual Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Throughout the month, organizations like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council (NSC) aim to increase the visibility of the dangers of using a cell phone while driving and encourage drivers to be more vigilant when they’re behind the wheel.
Keep reading to learn more about Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the statistics behind texting and driving.
Why Was Distracted Driving Awareness Month Created?
Distracted Driving Awareness Month was created in honor of Erica Forney, a nine-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a distracted driver in 2008. Congress passed a resolution in 2010 that officially designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month and encouraged American citizens to be observant of others on the road and to drive safely.
Prevalence of Distracted Driving
Raising awareness about distracted driving is especially important considering how prevalent phone use has become among the majority of drivers. A 2017 study found that drivers used their phones at some point during 88% of all trips, while a 2020 study found that phone use played a role in more than half of all car crashes.
Steps Being Taken To Raise Distracted Driving Awareness
Multiple groups are organizing campaigns to raise awareness about distracted driving during the month of April. For example, the NHTSA has made materials available for its “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All” campaign, which anyone can share to highlight the dangers of distracted driving.
The NHTSA will execute a high-visibility enforcement campaign known as “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” from April 3 through 10. This campaign aims to support police officers as they enforce distracted driving laws.
Drivers should note that it is illegal for anyone to text while driving in every state except for Missouri and Montana. You could also face consequences for other distracted driving behaviors like drifting out of your lane while talking on the phone or failing to pull over for an ambulance because you were driving with headphones and didn’t hear its siren.
In addition, the NSC is encouraging drivers to accept and share the “Just Drive Pledge.” In doing so, the organization hopes people will commit to staying focused while driving and speaking up when others use their phones while driving.
Distracted Driving Can Lead To Injury or Death
Driver distraction is responsible for thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries every year. In 2020, 3,142 people died as a result of car crashes involving distracted drivers, with nearly 20% of them being cyclists, pedestrians and other people who weren’t in a vehicle. Meanwhile, another 324,652 people suffered injuries amid distracted driving incidents.
On average, it takes a person about five seconds to send or read a text message. If you’re driving 55 mph, that would be the equivalent of driving the length of a football field without looking at what’s in front of you.
While there were fewer distracted driving casualties in 2020 than there were in 2016, the number has been trending upward since 2018. As a result, Distracted Driving Awareness Month is just as important now as it has ever been as individuals and organizations aim to make the roads safer and lower the number of distracted driving fatalities.
How To Improve Driving Awareness on the Road
The best way to improve distracted driving awareness is to talk about the issue with your friends and loved ones and to practice safe driving habits yourself. While phone use is perhaps the most obvious distraction for drivers, you should also be careful when eating and drinking, talking with other passengers, changing the radio station or listening to loud music that could drown out surrounding traffic noise. In addition, it’s best to avoid any activity that requires taking your eyes off the road such as changing your GPS’ destination or applying makeup.
Of course, texting and driving is perhaps the most dangerous distracted driving offense. You can try out the following tips to help you resist the temptation to text on the road:
- Pull over and safely park your car if you need to respond to a text message
- If someone else is riding with you, have your passenger respond to text messages for you
- Place your phone in the glove compartment or somewhere else out of reach so that you can’t respond to any text messages until you reach your destination
It’s especially helpful when teen drivers talk about the issue with their friends since teenagers naturally tend to be high-risk drivers. Young people who are motivated to raise awareness for distracted driving can find a local chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions to join.
Incentives for Safe Drivers
Car insurance companies offer many incentives for drivers to make wise choices and maintain a clean driving record, some of which are mandated by state laws. For example, some insurance carriers give discounted rates to people who complete a defensive driving course. In California, auto insurance companies are required to offer a 20% discount to good drivers.
In addition, if you opt into a telematics insurance program, your insurance company will be able to track your driving behaviors and may reward good behaviors with lower auto insurance premiums. For example, you could see a decrease in the amount you have to pay for car insurance if you consistently stay within the speed limit and don’t get into any accidents.
Of course, insurance companies employ negative incentives as well. For example, if you have telematics insurance, your insurance company may raise your rates if they find you are frequently speeding or slamming on the brakes since these indicate that you may be distracted while driving. In addition, getting into any at-fault car accident will likely cause your insurance rates to go up.