April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which while never a fun topic to discuss, is an issue we need to continually focus on improving. According to the CDC, every day in the U.S. more than 1,000 people are injured and approximately 9 people killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. "Distracted driving is anything that takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, or your mind off driving."
Some of the ways we allow ourselves to become distracted are obvious, like texting, which hopefully everyone knows is unsafe to do, no matter how "good" you think are at it. "Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed." (NHTSA)
Here are two of the most common myths/illogical thinking surrounding distracted driving that need to be addressed.
-"I only use my phone when stopped at a red light so that's ok." According to an AAA study, people are distracted for up to 27 seconds after sending a text.
-"I don't text. I only take phone calls and put it on speaker so I don't have to hold it." The American College of Pediatricians reports drivers talking on phone calls can miss up to 50% of their environments, including pedestrians and traffic signals.
As parents we need to both model appropriate behavior for our kids, and make sure we're teaching them safety. The National Center for Statistics and Analysis reports drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
Many phones now have a "Do Not Disturb While Driving" feature than can be activated manually before driving; this will set an automatic text reply to tell people you are driving and will answer their text when you stop. It will also silence calls.
You may think you are the exception to the average, or that "this one call can't wait." But we need to be conscious of the example we're setting for our children, and be mindful of how our actions affect not only ourselves, but also every driver around us.