We have all heard heartbreaking stories of the consequences of using a cell phone while driving, like the accounts remembered in this National Safety Council (NSC) video. These stories remind us that there are human lives with an entourage of friends and family behind each distracted driving statistic. Though these statistics and stories are truly moving, the NSC still found that at any moment 7% of drivers are utilizing their cell phones while driving. As we participate in Distracted Driving Awareness Month this April, let’s all agree that our phones and other distractions can wait– especially if it means it may save a life.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the 37,461 fatalities on U.S. roads in 2016, 3,450 were caused by distracted driving. Cell phone usage was one of the most common distractions. Equally as alarming, though, are the state laws preventing these statistics from growing. According to Governors Highway Safety Association, though 47 states ban texting while driving, only 16 states ban drivers for using hand-held cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. Additionally, only 20 states prohibit all cell phone use for school bus drivers transporting our nation’s youth.
Of course, distracted driving is more than just operating a cell phone while behind the wheel. The NHTSA defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving. Distractions are often broken into three categories:
Visual – Distractions that cause your eyes to divert from the road
Manual – Distractions that cause your hands to leave the wheel
Cognitive – Distractions that cause your mind to wonder from the primary task of driving
Sometimes one activity can combine all three types of distractions, such as texting. Studies show that sending or receiving a text message usually consumes 5 seconds of attention. If a driver does this while driving 55 miles per hour, the vehicle would have gone a distance of a full football field with the driver’s eyes and mind off of the road, and hands directed away from the wheel.
Refraining from distracted driving is not just the responsibility of the driver, though. Passengers are equally as responsible to not divert the driver’s attention from the task of driving. As a passenger, you should always remind the driver to ignore distractions, like the radio or a cell phone. If something or someone in the vehicle needs attention, volunteer to handle it for the driver instead. Also, be mindful about how you may be causing a distraction, such as through conversation or other activity.
Most companies, such as the 11 PLH Group utility construction business units, have policies in addition to federal and state laws regarding distracted driving. Talk with your supervisor about the details of your company’s policies. The NSC has a free Safe Driving toolkit for companies who do not have a policy in place or need to enhance their current driving guidelines.
We all have the potential of falling statistic to a distracted driver, and we all have the responsibility to prevent distracted driving. This Distracted Driving Awareness Month, promote and encourage safe, distraction-free driving for all drivers and passengers every month of the year.