In March of 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced the month of April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Driving distracted is a hazardous action that can result in fatal car crashes. Thousands have died in crashes involving distracted drivers and congress felt it was time to raise more awareness about the issue. 

  Distracted driving is any activity that diverts the driver’s attention, including talking or texting on a phone, fiddling with a navigation system, talking on the phone and be distracted by passengers in your car. Texting is the most alarming distraction, according to distraction.gov. A text message, whether reading or sending takes your eyes off the road for at least five seconds if not more. A lot can happen in that short amount of time. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing and not only the possibility of harming yourself but others as well. 

  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cellphones while driving. In 2015 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.  

  “Distracted driving is notoriously under-reported,” said Maureen Vogel, Media Relations Manager for the National Safety Council. “While the federal numbers indicate 3,000 deaths a year are attributed to some form of distraction, we believe the number is significantly higher. Maybe even twice that number.”   

  Awareness is the first step to eliminating a problem. Many states in the U.S. including Georgia have passed laws relating to this. The Georgia law prohibits drivers from texting while driving, computer, or wireless device while driving. The law does have an exception for emergency personnel and drivers who remain fully parked. “Behavior change occurs through a combination of three things; education, laws and strong enforcement,” said Vogel. “For example, take seat belts. Research showed they saved lives. Once we raised awareness, manufactures started putting them in cars. Then we passed laws around wearing seatbelts, and we enforced those laws. Now we have a 90% usage rate among drivers.” Changing one’s behavior about these topics will in turn change their behavior behind the wheel.  

  There are many ways that the community can get involved to help lower and eliminate the high numbers of deaths and accidents caused by distracted driving. Even the  police departments are finding creative ways to catch distracted drivers including dressing up like landscapers and watching drivers at intersections. Individuals can also sign family contracts, sign pledges to drive cell free and hang posters in the community. 

  “It really will take a combination of education, laws and enforcement. We do not have strong enough laws yet, but we are starting to see the education. People understand they shouldn’t be distracted behind the wheel, but too many drivers have the ‘It won’t happen to me’ mentality. They do not want other people to be distracted, but they are not afraid to do it themselves,” said Vogel. 

  To find out more on how to bring awareness to this epidemic facing the country, visit www.nsc.org.

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