April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. That means it’s time to assess your driving habits and make sure you’re focusing on the road while behind the wheel. It only takes a moment to end a life with distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2021 distracted driving killed 3,522 people. The Centers for Disease Control estimates on average, nine people are killed every day in distraction-affected auto accidents.
What is distracted driving and how can I avoid becoming one of these statistics?
Distracted driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle while simultaneously doing another activity that diverts your attention away from driving in any way. Some common examples are texting or talking on the phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, or adjusting the stereo and temperature controls. In other words, anything that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and/or mind off of driving is considered a distraction.
Texting is the most common driving distraction, according to the NHTSA.
The CDC puts the danger in perspective with this analogy:
Sending or reading a text at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
Efforts to crack down on distracted driving caused by phones are happening across the nation, including here in Georgia. In 2018, the “Hands-Free Georgia Act” was enacted. The law prohibits using hand-held mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle.
What can you do to prevent distracted driving?
- If you need to text or email someone, wait until you’ve reached your destination or pull over in a safe location if it cannot wait.
- If you’re struggling and can’t seem to keep your hands off your phone, put your phone in the trunk, glove box, back seat, or a bag until you arrive at your destination.
- If you have a passenger, use them to your advantage. They can text or email for you, change the thermostat and stereo, and even help with navigation.
- If your copilot is young – maybe your child is in the car with you – the key is to be prepared. Make sure they have their basic needs met before they get in the car, and consider giving them a safe distraction like a book to occupy them, so you can focus on driving.
- Don’t be afraid to remind your friends and family when they are behind the wheel. Driving is the only thing you should do behind the wheel. Tell them to stop and focus on the road if they’re driving distracted.
Your life and the lives of passengers, fellow motorists, and pedestrians are always more important than any distraction. Keep everyone safe by focusing on the road while you drive, and as a passenger, remind your driver to do the same.