April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month

It was a horrific event last week when a 20 year old pickup truck driver swerved into oncoming traffic and a struck bus, killing 13 people.  The 20 year old is reported to have stated he was texting when the accident occurred.  This is not exactly what the National Safety Council had in mind when planning promotional material for Distracted Driver Awareness Month in April.  However, if there ever was a platform, last week’s events certainly provide one.

Some of you have heard these facts from me before.  Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of workplace fatality, as well as the number one cause of death due to injury throughout our lives.

Last year an estimated 3,000 lives were lost due to distracted driving.  While there are a number of distractions that can impact the decisions we make while driving a motor vehicle, by far the cell phone causes the most distraction.  NHTSA research has shown 9% of all drivers are using a phone at any point in time, and 26% of car crashes involve cell phone use.

Studies show that drivers talking on cell phones (even with hands-free technology) experience what’s called “inattention blindness”.  This can result in drivers only seeing 50% of what is around them.  The danger of inattention blindness occurs when a driver fails to notice events in the driving environment, either at all or too late, and it’s impossible to respond such as a steering maneuver or braking to avoid a crash.

These drivers:

  • Do less visual monitoring of dashboard instruments and mirrors.  Some drivers entirely abandoned those tasks.
  • Make fewer glances to traffic lights at intersections.  Some drivers do not even look at traffic signals.
  • Miss visual cues critical to navigation like exit signs and street signs.
  • Miss both high and low relevant objects, showing a lack of ability to allocate their attention to the most important visual information.

So I suggest we make an effort and challenge ourselves to limit if not eliminate the use of our cell phone while we drive.  How can we do this?

  • Before driving, turn off your cell phone or put it on silent.
  • Toss your cell phone in the trunk or glove box.
  • Set GPS before you start to drive.
  • On long drives, schedule stops to check voicemail, email and text messages.
  • Install an app on your phone to hold calls and messages while your car is in motion.
  • Ask a passenger to answer incoming calls and messages.
  • Change your voicemail greeting to say you might be driving, and you’ll return calls when you can safely do so.

Promotional Material below from the National Safety Council:

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