According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) distracted driving has become a deadly epidemic on our roads. While drivers texting behind the wheel tops what seems like an endless list of distractions, other risky actions include talking — whether it be on the phone or to others in the car, setting your navigation, adjusting what you’re listening to, drinking coffee, applying makeup, and more. By driving distracted, you’re robbing yourself of seconds that you may need to avoid a close call or deadly crash.
In 2019, distracted driving killed 3,142 people – a 10% increase from 2018. Young drivers seem more prone to using their phones while driving. According to NHTSA research from 2017, drivers 16 to 24 years old have been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers have since 2007. But make no mistake: It isn’t just young people who are driving distracted, since drivers in other age groups don’t lag far behind.
April, which is national Distracted Driving Awareness Month, is a good time to regroup and take responsibility for the choices we make when we’re on the road. Follow these safety tips for a safe ride every time:
- Need to send a text? Pull over and park your car in a safe location. Only then is it safe to send or read a text.
- Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
- Do not scroll through apps, including social media, while driving. Cell phone use can be habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Put the cell phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of the vehicle until you arrive at your destination.
During a portion of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, from April 8 through 12, you may see increased law enforcement on the roadways as part of the national paid media campaign U Drive. U Text. U Pay. This campaign reminds drivers of the deadly dangers and the legal consequences – including fines – of texting behind the wheel. Also, on April 8 state highway safety offices and law enforcement agencies across the country will take part in Connect to Disconnect, a 4-hour national distracted driving enforcement and awareness initiative. The goals: to demonstrate a nationwide commitment to enforcing texting laws in a fair and equitable way, and to reduce traffic crashes caused by distracted drivers, ultimately preventing injuries and deaths associated with cell phone use and texting while driving.
Forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers; 25 states and territories prohibit drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving; and 39 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands ban cell phone use by teen or novice drivers.
- Remind your friends and family: If you’re in the driver’s seat, it’s the only thing you should be doing. No distractions.
- If your driver is texting or otherwise distracted, tell them to stop and focus on the road.
- Ask your friends to join you in pledging not to drive distracted. You could save a life. Share your pledge on social media to spread the word — #JustDrive.