CHICAGO, IL – April is recognized as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a month to spread the word that distracted driving, including hands-free phone usage and infotainment systems, put everyone at risk. Each day, nearly 8 people in the United States are killed from a crash that resulted from distracted driving.
Distracted driving is anything that takes away your attention from the road, such as texting, using your GPS, talking on a cell phone, and even eating while driving. Any of these distractions pose a danger to yourself and other innocent lives on the road. Distracted driving includes any visual, manual, or cognitive distraction.
In 2018 alone, more than 2,800 lives were lost; in addition, an estimated 400,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
The most at-risk for distracted driving are young adults and teen drivers. Nearly 25% of distracted drivers are young adults between the ages of 20 and 29-years-old. Drivers from 15 to 19 are more likely to be distracted than those over 20. Nine percent of teens killed in motor vehicle accidents were due to distracted driving.
The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors health-risk behaviors among U.S. high school students which include texting or emailing while driving. Forty perfect of high schools students admitted to texting/emailing while driving in the last 30 days. Texting and driving is most prevalent for white students (44%) compared to Black (30%) or Hispanic students (35%).
Students who are more likely to text/email while driving also reported other risky behaviors like not wearing a seatbelt, more likely to ride with a driver who consumed alcohol, and more likely to drive after drinking alcohol themselves.
To prevent distracted driving, it’s important to remember whatever you’re doing can wait until you’ve reached your destination. There is nothing worth risking your own life or others on the roadway. Drivers should avoid distractions while on the roadway such as fidgeting with music, making a phone call, or reading an email.
As a passenger, it’s your job to speak up if the driver is participating in distracted driving. Ask them to focus on the road and help reduce distracted driving by assisting with navigation or other tasks so the drivers sole attention is on the roadway.
If you’re a parent, make sure to educate your children on the rules and responsibilities of driving. By sharing your own personal stories, you can relate to your teens and a potential scenario. Remember to emphasize and practice a home that texts and phone calls can wait until you arrive at a destination.
It’s also important to familiarize yourself with your state’s distracted driving laws. Illinois law prohibits the use of hand-held cellphones, texting, or other electronic communications while operating a motor vehicle. Hands-free devices or Bluetooth technology is allowed for persons age 19 and older.
Many states have enacted laws to help prevent distracted driving, as well as the federal government. For more information on distracted driving, check out this fact sheet from the CDC.