April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
April 6, 2023
Distractions & Distracted drivers
You’ve seen them on the roads, we have all seen them. On their phones, or worse yet texting.
Distractions on the road come in many forms, according to www.distraction.gov, a U.S. Department of Transportation website.
There are three main kinds of distractions:
- Visual – taking your eyes off the road
- Manual –taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive – taking your mind off what you’re doing
There are many types of distracted drivers:
Distracted drivers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and experience levels. Even if you’re not one today, it’s easy to let your guard down and become one at any moment — all in the time it takes you to answer your cell phone or check the kids in the back seat while you’re driving.
Distracted driving has become a deadly epidemic on our roads. Cell phone use — specifically, texting, talking, and social media use — has become the most common distraction. Texting is the most alarming of these distractions because sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for at least 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. Other risky actions include adjusting the GPS, applying makeup, eating, and drinking. By driving distracted, you’re robbing yourself of seconds that you may need to avoid a close call or deadly crash.
A New Nationwide Agency Forward Study unveiled some frightening driving habits from some of the youngest drivers on the road: Gen Z. Unfortunately, 34% of Gen Z admitted that they video chatted while driving, according to the study, which also found that 59% of Gen Z say they are more impatient on the road than a year ago and 47% agree they are driving faster.
It’s not just younger drivers making the roads unsafe, though. Of all drivers surveyed, 54% admit to driving 10 or more mph above the speed limit, 56% have eaten while driving and 12% said they have used or checked social media while driving. What’s worse, 7% have even watched a movie while driving.
According to the 2023 Travelers Risk Index on distracted driving 37% of workers surveyed said that they have taken work-related calls, texts, or emails while driving. When asked why, 44% said that it might be a work-related emergency, and 43% responded that they felt the need to always be available.
More than 75% of drivers said that they have experienced stress or intense emotions while behind the wheel, and 62% said that they have driven while drowsy. Notably, 70% of survey respondents said that they believe distracted driving is more of a problem now than it has been over the past few years. That finding is underscored by estimates from the National Safety Council, which show that deaths due to preventable traffic crashes in 2022 increased by 18% compared with pre-pandemic levels.
National Distracted Driving Awareness Month is meant to remind drivers of the deadly dangers and the legal consequences – including fines – of distracted driving.
The Washington State law RCW 46.61.673 reads:
“For the purposes of this section, “dangerously distracted” means a person who engages in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of such motor vehicle on any highway.”
It is important to remember that “Distracted Driving” in general is a secondary offense, meaning the officer would need to see the person swerve, speed, hit something, cause an accident, or do something for which they could pull them over first.
Washington also has hands-free laws. This means that if a police officer sees you holding your phone, they can pull you over and ticket you. Drivers must use hands-free devices, and new drivers with instruction permits or intermediate licenses can’t use wireless devices at all except in emergencies. Talking or sending text messages while holding a wireless device carries a $124 fine. Violations on your motor vehicle record also impact your insurance rates and can lead to policy non-renewal.
To read the cell phone laws, see:
- RCW 46.61.667: Using a wireless communications device while driving
- RCW 46.61.668: Sending, reading, or writing a text message while driving
- RCW 46.20.055: Instruction Permit
- RCW 46.20.075: Intermediate license
Life Altering Consequences
If you or someone else you know thinks you can drive just fine while talking on your phone, think about this: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is indicating that distracted driving is the known cause of accidents that resulted in 3,522 fatalities in 2021. During 2021 Washington State saw that 6.9% of crashes that happened involved distracted driving. That number increased to 9.3% of crashes in 2022 according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. In 2020, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted drivers. The NHTSA also reported that 31,785 people died in crashes in just the first nine months of 2022, which was a marginal decrease from the 43,000 roadway deaths in 2021.
2022 also continued a decade-long trend of roadways being even more dangerous for pedestrians.
Can you imagine living with the guilt of causing an accident that took someone’s life? Or, being tried and found guilty of Vehicular Homicide?
If you are a parent of a young driver talk to them about these possible consequences it may save their life.
(1) Distracted Driving 0:30 PSA / Heather Lerch / Driving While Texting Fatal Crash – YouTube
Be Committed to Drive Responsibly
This month is a good time to regroup and take responsibility for the choices we make when we’re on the road. Here are a few reminders to help you avoid all three types of distractions next time you’re behind the wheel of your car :
- If a call or a text can’t wait, then find somewhere safe to pull over and park your car before using your phone.
- Have a passenger answer your phone or return text messages for you.
- Struggling not to text and drive? Put the cell phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of the vehicle until you arrive at your destination. Or put your phone in silent mode and store it away from the front seat or in a purse or bag. This helps reduce the temptation.
- Do not scroll through apps or social media while driving.
- This one seems obvious, but finish shaving or applying makeup before you get in the car!
- Do not watch a movie while driving.
- If you’re emotional, wait until you’ve calmed down before hitting the road.
- Avoid road rage. You’ll be happier and safer.
- Whenever you’re on the road, it’s not a time to multitask. Focus on driving safely.