April marks distracted driving awareness month

Published 4:03 pm Thursday, April 27, 2023

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April marks National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and in recognition of the focus, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) Highway Patrol Division encourages drivers and motorcyclists to steer clear of distractions and pay attention to the road.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) reports in 2020, 3,142 people died and 324,652 people were injured in distraction-related crashes across America.

“Distracted driving is defined as an any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving,” said ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor. “It not only endangers the safety of the driver and passengers within a particular vehicle but also puts the lives of other motorists in harm’s way. While there are a number of activities that could divert a driver’s attention from the road, the most alarming distractive trend has become the use of cell phones and other smart devices while operating a vehicle.”

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Distracted driving by using cell phones resulted in 1,844 Alabama crashes in 2020 and 1,972 crashes in 2019. Texting and driving is illegal under current Alabama law.

“We give the analogy that if you look down at your phone to either read or send a text message for just 5 seconds, at 55 miles per hour you have already traveled the distance of a football field,” said Department of Public Safety Director Colonel Jon Archer. “You may not have the intention to hurt anyone, but if you are involved in a crash that causes injuries or fatalities due to distracted driving, you’re going to change that person’s life and their family’s life forever, as well as your own.”

The use of cell phones and other smart devices has become on of the most prevalent distracted driving behaviors, but there are other activities motorists should be aware of. ALEA representatives urge motorists to avoid the following activities while driving: eating or drinking, talking to passengers, self-grooming, applying makeup, using a navigation device, and adjusting the radio or climate controls. The agency considers these activities to be dangerous because they can create situations where distracted driving can lead to a crash.

ALEA offers the following distracted driving prevention tips:

For drivers:

  1. Put aside electronic distractions. Do not use or reach for devices while driving. Putting phones on “do not disturb” mode can help remove the temptation to browse online at a red light or respond right away to a text message.
  2. Avoid multitasking. Anything that occupies the mind or vision can be a distraction behind the wheel. Make time to eat meals or apply makeup at home.
  3. Plan routes before departure. Programming navigation systems while driving can create a distraction. It is better to ask a passenger to do it or enter the destination before leaving home.
  4. Be alert for pedestrians and cyclists, especially those who may themselves be distracted.

For parents:

  1. Set a good example for young drivers and talk with teen drivers about responsible driving.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the state’s Graduated Driver License Law. That information can be found on ALEA.gov
  3. Keep kids and pets safe. Make sure kids are in proper car seats and that pets stay secured in their zone in the back of your vehicle. It can help reduce distractions if pets are not roaming about the car.

For passengers:

  1. Speak up. If someone is texting or otherwise driving while distracted, say something and let the know you are uncomfortable with that behavior. Encourage children to do the same thing when they are passengers in a friend’s car. It could save a life.
  2. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the road.

ALEA invites all Alabama citizens to take the pledge to not drive while distracted. Visit www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving to learn more.