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NHTSA Launches Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign

NHTSA Launches Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign

By Joseph Dobrian, April 18, 2018
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As part of that initiative, the NHTSA is urging law enforcement officers nationwide to look out for drivers who are texting or using their phone behind the wheel. The administration is supporting the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” high-visibility enforcement campaign, now in its fifth year, with a $5 million national media buy. The ads are in both English and Spanish, and will appear on television, radio, and digital platforms. The ads target motorists aged 18 to 34: the demographic most likely to die in distraction-related crashes, according to the NHTSA.

“Cell phones have a place in our lives, but not while driving,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King. “Everyone should understand the very real dangers of texting while driving. Taking your eyes off the road for a moment is all it takes to cause a crash and change lives forever. Remember, no text or call is worth a life.”

According to NHTSA data, at least 3,450 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2016, including those who were texting and driving. Key statistical findings in NHTSA’s new 2016 Distracted Driving Research Note and Teen Distracted Driver Fact Sheet include:
  • Nine percent of fatal crashes in 2016 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
  • Six percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.
  • Nine percent of drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the times of the fatal crashes.
  • In 2016, there were 562 non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, and others) killed in distraction-affected crashes.
  • In 2016, 70% of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes were male, as compared to 74% of drivers in all fatal crashes.
  • Hand-held cell phone use while driving is highest among 15- to 29-year-old drivers.
  • Female drivers with a cell phone have been more likely to be involved in fatal distracted-driving crashes as compared to male drivers every year since 2012.

The NHTSA urges motorists to:

  • Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
  • Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
  • Speak up when you are a passenger and your driver uses an electronic device while driving. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the driving task.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are the best defense against unsafe drivers.

In addition, the NHTSA advises all pedestrians and cyclists to focus on their surroundings, not on their electronic devices. Currently, 47 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, ban text messaging for all drivers. All but four states allow a police officer to cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place: a violation punishable by a civil fine. Fifteen states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Twenty states ban school bus drivers from using cell phones, and 38 states plus D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers.

Consumer Tips
In recognition of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:

  • Close out text and phone conversations before getting behind the wheel.
  • If you’re going to be driving for several hours, set up an automated “I’m driving” text message. If possible, add the approximate time when you will respond.
  • Turn off your device while driving so that you won’t be tempted to respond.

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