Distracted Driving Awareness Month is observed each April to bring national attention to the hazards of distracted driving. The dangers of distracted driving are serious and the results can be severe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2016, distracted drivers caused 3,450 fatalities and 391,000 injuries on America’s roads and highways. That’s at least 9 people killed and 1,000 injured every day. Washington State Traffic Safety Council data shows that distracted driving causes 30% of fatalities and 23% of serious injuries in crashes in the State of Washington.
Operating a motor vehicle requires full attention to the road, but it’s easy to become distracted when you are driving and at the same time using a mobile device, changing radio channels, using a calculator, applying cosmetics, smoking, eating or drinking. Looking at billboards, buildings and people also causes major distractions. Texting is among the most dangerous distractions. Typing or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for at least 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the entire 120-yard length of a football field with your eyes shut. Driving while texting also increases your crash risk like driving with a blood alcohol content of 1.9.
It’s the Law
In 2017, Washington State passed a distracted driving law into the rules of the road. Getting ticketed for distracted driving is expensive. Fines start at $136 and can go up to $234 on repeat offenses. The citations stay on your driving record and increase your vehicle insurance rates. Federal law also prohibits texting by interstate truck drivers and forbids companies from requiring their drivers to text while behind the wheel. In addition to disqualification, civil penalties for truck drivers can reach up to $2,750 for multiple offenses, and $11,000 for companies requiring or allowing drivers to text while driving. Over 150 law enforcement agencies across Washington State participate in the Distracted Driving Awareness Month prevention effort.
The best strategy to prevent a roadway incident is an easy one. Never take your mind off driving and always keep your eyes on the road and both hands on the steering wheel. Put away your cell phones and other handheld gadgets and objects until you are safely parked out of the flow of traffic.
Trucking companies should implement a cell phone policy in their safety program that prohibits drivers from using their cell phones while driving. Drivers also should not handle dispatching devices, maps, or food while driving.
Visit the following links to get more information and resources for distracted driving prevention:
Washington State traffic law:
Using a personal electronic device while driving
Dangerously distracted driving
Keep Trucking Safe:
Smart and safe cell phone use poster
Washington State Traffic Safety Council:
Distracted driving data, training resources and programs
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
Rule limiting the use of wireless communication devices
Distracted driving tips and training tools
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
National Safety Council:
Distracted Driving Awareness Month website
Distracted driving safety topics website
Photo by BC Gov Photos on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND