Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Published April 16, 2019

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. There are many potential sources of distraction while driving. Not surprisingly, cell phones are one of the biggest culprits.

Greensburg High School’s SADD Club recently sponsored some guest speakers who were very personally affected by distracted driving. In 2013, Rich and Anna Levitan lost their 18-year-old daughter, Merritt, to a young driver who was texting. It took only 4 seconds for the driver’s attention to be distracted by a phone and hit Merritt while she was bike riding. As a result of the tragedy, the Levitan family started the “TextLess Live More” campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

According to textlesslivemore.org, drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).  25% of all auto collisions in the US involve cell phones (National Safety Council). And every day, 8 citizens are killed and another 1100 are injured in the United States due to a distracted driver (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

With so many daunting statistics related to distracted driving it seems logical to consider ways to prevent the problem, especially during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Many of these are repeat tips brought to you last year at this time, but they bear repeating.

The Department of Motor Vehicles website offers tips and ideas on ways to drive distraction-free, especially as it pertains to cellular use. Suggestions include turning your phone off or placing it in the trunk so you aren’t tempted to pick it up. The DMV also suggests that you consider asking a passenger to handle any incoming calls or texts. Drivers are also urged to investigate whether a phone has a “Do Not Disturb” option. On the iPhone, for example, that option is found under Settings. After clicking Do Not Disturb, you’ll scroll down to the Do Not Disturb While Driving heading. There you can activate an automatic reply to incoming texts and calls. Senders and/or callers will receive a notification that you are driving with “Do Not Disturb” turned on.

Most phones are also equipped with voice control features, allowing users to speak commands such as “Call Home”, thus keeping at least one hand on the wheel.  Likewise, most newer vehicles offer blue tooth options so that hands-free calls can be made through the car. These actions themselves are still distractions, however, and it only takes 3 seconds after a driver’s attention is diverted for a crash to occur, reports teensafe.com.

To help monitor cell phone use in cars, several phone apps exist that track a cell phone’s use while driving. Such apps may be ideal ways for parents to monitor their student’s use.  Many companies that issue employee vehicles are also initiating software that allows them to track not only an employee’s use of a phone while driving, but also his/her driving skills in general.

The legal system is slowly becoming a partner in the distracted driving effort. For example, Indiana’s laws are particularly tight on drivers under the age of 18. These drivers are prohibited from using cell phones or any type of electronic device behind the wheel. But laws vary from state-to-state, and some states have yet to address the concern on any level.

According to the Levitan family, you can also do your part in preventing distracted-driving accidents by simply being aware. If you see a distracted driver, be cautious and proactive. Don’t honk—that will only create an additional distraction. Just create space between you and that driver and be aware of his/her lack of attention.

Statistics don’t lie. Distracted driving is a serious concern, and it is everyone’s job to be a part of the solution. Help reduce or even eliminate distractions while driving. The life you save may just be a loved one’s—or even your own.