The National Safety Council (NSC) declared April Distracted Driving Awareness Month. NSC, along with the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and law enforcement throughout the country are participating in this national campaign to put a stop to distracted driving year-round.
From now through April 20, the Oakland Police Department will join statewide enforcement campaigns for "zero tolerance days." During these days, law enforcement will be especially vigilant about watching for distracted drivers. Just like getting a speeding ticket, these citations are necessary to raise awareness of the importance of driving without distractions.
NHTSA reports that in 2014, 3,179 people died in distracted driving-related collisions. That's 10 percent of all fatal crashes. That same year, collisions that involved distracted drivers caused 431,000 people injuries.
We see it all the time: drivers continue to text and talk on their cell phone when driving, even though it's illegal in California. NSC says even hands-free devices are not safe. Research shows that fiddling with a cell phone or sending a text using voice commands distracts the brain for 27 seconds. That's long enough to run a red light, rear-end another driver, or hit a bicyclist.
Although smartphones cause most of the distracted driving, other actions that take your attention off the road qualify. These include:
• Using a smartphone or cellphone
• Eating or drinking
• Talking to passengers
• Reading (including maps)
• Using a navigation system
• Watching a video
• Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
Last week I saw a man driving through a busy neighborhood with what looked like a glowing iPad propped on his dashboard. That's definitely distracted driving.
Although we're almost two weeks into April, there's still plenty of time to take NSC's Take Back My Drive pledge. Challenge yourself to drive cell free-if you're already practicing safe driving habits, this should be an easy pledge to keep.
Distracted driving can cause serious injury or death. That text isn't so important as to risk another person's life or your own. Follow Distracted Driving Awareness month this month and every month and keep your cell phone off when you're in the car.