April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a time to focus on the choices one makes behind the wheel and to increase awareness of what happens when drivers don’t give their full attention to the road.
Distracted driving continues to gain recognition across the nation as a deadly problem. In 2015, there were 3,477 people killed and an estimated additional 391,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While teens, ages 15 – 19, are reported as the largest age group to be distracted while behind the wheel, nearly everyone is guilty of some form of distracted driving. In fact, most people say they understand the dangers, yet continue to engage in distracting activities while behind the wheel.
When we think of distracted driving, the first thought that comes to mind is usually cell phone use – either talking or texting. However, “distracted driving” refers to any activity that takes one’s attention from the road and the task of driving. It is broken down into three categories:
Visual — When the driver’s focus and eyes are off the road. (i.e. looking at a text message; fiddling with the radio; using a navigation system)
Manual — When a driver takes one or both hands off the steering wheel. (i.e. answering a call; eating; drinking; applying make-up; shaving)
Cognitive — When a driver’s mind is not focused on driving. (i.e. talking to passengers; talking on the phone)
All can lead to inattention blindness, meaning that a person fails to recognize something happening right in front of their eyes.
As a rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. It is also important to note that the brain remains distracted for 27 seconds after dialing, changing music, or sending a text using voice commands, according to research by the National Safety Council. Yet, it only takes a few seconds to run a red light or stop sign or for a child to run into the street in front of your vehicle.
I am a strong advocate against distracted driving. In addition to raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, we also support groups such as the Casey Feldman Foundation (CFF) and EndDD.org. EndDD.org is a project of the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation, which was created so that something positive could result from a parent’s worst nightmare. In additional to its efforts to raise awareness and generate action to end distracted driving.
I encourage my readers to:
Use this month to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving.
Have serious conversations with family members about the risks of distracted driving.
Make a change in your personal driving habits for the safety of yourself, your family and others on the roadways.
Pledge to be an attentive driver.
Read about Casey. Then, if you have been inspired by Casey, I encourage you help celebrate her 30th birthday (April 6) by participating in a virtual birthday celebration on Facebook.
Contribute to EndDD.org and CFF.
It is time we all drive home the message that distracted driving accidents can be easily prevented by modifying driving habits and strengthening auto safety laws.