Distracted Driving Awareness Month, observed during the entire month of April, is a united effort to address the dangers of driving while distracted and seeks to prevent further avoidable deaths through education and by raising awareness. Accidents involving distracted drivers are completely preventable, and the desire is that through these efforts more tragedies can be avoided. The hashtag #justdrive is used throughout social media to help spread the word and advocate personal pledges to safe practices and distraction-free driving.
We have previously written on distracted driving as it relates to teen drivers, but as statistics continue to show, this is a problem that extends to drivers of every age. Though distracted driving related accidents are trending down from previous years, the numbers are nevertheless sobering:
- Every day, at least nine Americans are killed, and another 100 are injured in distracted driving accidents.
- Every 15 minutes, someone is killed in a car crash; every seven seconds there is a crash-related injury.
- In 2017, the number of people who died in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver was 3,166, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.
- Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. This is equivalent to driving 55 miles per hour blind for the length of a football field.
- Distracted driving has become the leading cause of vehicle crashes over the last decade.
Arizona Texting And Driving Laws
Currently, Arizona is one of only three states that allow some drivers to text and drive (Missouri and Montana are the other two). The other 47 states all ban the use of sending and reading messages from a wireless device while operating a motor vehicle. Multiple attempts to institute a similar ban have been unsuccessful in the state over the last decade. Some prohibitions have been instituted on a city-by-city basis.
Last summer, however, a measure signed by Governor Doug Ducey went into effect prohibiting drivers under the age of 18 from texting while driving statewide. The governor expressed a desire to see a more comprehensive bill passed soon. He would have happily signed such a bill last year, he said, had one made it to his desk. The director of the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Alberto Gutier, was hopeful that a distracted driving bill might be on its way, and as of January earlier this year, such a bill has finally been introduced.
House Bill 2069, introduced by Representative John Kavanagh, a conservative Republican, would ban drivers from manually writing or sending a message using a wireless communications device while operating a motor vehicle. The law does not apply while in performance of official duties by law enforcement, safety personnel, or emergency vehicles. Additionally, the law does not apply to the use of GPS services on such devices.
Civil penalties under the new law would start at $100 for the first non-accident related violation and go up from there. If an accident is involved, the texting driver will face a $500 penalty. The proposed penalty will increase to $10,000 if the accident causes the death of another person. Proponents of the bill are hoping to finally see Arizona implement laws that will help to reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities resulting from distracted behaviors.
Personal Safety Pledges
The National Safety Council has created a pledge intended to assist others in committing themselves to put away distractions while driving. The National Safety Council uses leadership, research, education, and advocacy to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes, in communities, and on the road. The pledge, which is available online, includes the following guidelines:
- No phone conversations (including both handheld and hands-free/Bluetooth calls)
- No texting or sending messages through social media
- No voice-to-text features through a vehicle’s dashboard system
- No viewing or updating social media
- No reading or sending of emails
- No taking photos, selfies, or videos
- No inputting destination information into GPS while the vehicle is in motion
- No attempting to knowingly call or text someone else who is driving
The National Safety Council encourages everyone to make the pledge themselves and share their pledges with others. The more people who commit to safe and distraction-free driving habits, the safer roads will be for everyone.
Employers Role In Awareness And Prevention
Distracted driving accidents are the #1 cause of workplace deaths, and employers absorb the costs associated with these accidents whether they occur on the job or off. It is in their best interest to do so, and as such, the National Safety Council offers a free Safe Driving Kit as a resource for employers to use. The kit is intended to educate and add support for policies that protect companies’ employees by encouraging safe driving behaviors and practices. The kit contains:
- Materials to reinforce company policies and share information with employees year-round
- Fact sheets and FAQs
- Myth Busters
- Stories from Survivor Advocates
- Links to further safe driving resources
- Pre-made communications for educating employees
When employers get involved in the effort to encourage safer practices, more lives can be saved. Distracted Driving Awareness extends beyond individuals this month, and seeks to get more organizations involved in the effort.
The Road Ahead
As we ponder the current statistics and laws surrounding distracted driving and its related accidents this month, it is important to remember the human toll paid from such behaviors. Every statistic, no matter its size, is too high when referring to the loss of human life. Every day, preventable tragedies continue as a result of otherwise unimportant distractions. This month start your pledge toward better driving habits and help spread the word to others to put away the devices and distractions and #justdrive.