Distracted Driving Awareness Month: Facts, figures and fixes

April 24, 2014 12:00 AM

There's a reason that the U.S. Department of Transportation and law enforcement officers have been cracking down on distracted driving this April. As it's National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it's a good time to hone in on the risks that come about when motorists aren't totally focused on the road.

A recent study by Plymouth Rock Assurance found that two-thirds of drivers engage in distracted driving behavior on a daily basis. This is especially concerning as according to Associations Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that driving while distracted led to 20 percent of injury-related collisions and 10 percent of fatal car crashes in 2012. The NHTSA has implement its first national ad campaign to discourage distracted driving, and it's clear that these efforts will continue to strengthen until drivers become more aware of the dangers involved. Not only can distracted driving cause serious injuries, but it can also lead to costly auto repairs.

Here's what motorists need to know about the growing problem.

The culprits
There are a variety of factors that could cause drivers to become distracted. Most notably, the Chicago Tribune noted that technology has become a rising issue. The source revealed that a National Occupant Protection Use Survey found that 660,000 drivers are interacting with their mobile phones or other electronic devices at any given daylight moment. Additionally, more than half of Plymouth Rock Assurance poll respondents admitted that they have witnessed another driver texting - and they weren't alone, they were endangering at least one other adult passenger in the car. Disturbingly, nearly 40 percent of survey participants had seen a driver texting with at least one child in tow.

However, gadgets are not the only thing to consider. The Chicago Tribune noted that a different study found that children are to blame for 12 percent of driving distractions. Other behaviors that can get in the way of someone's driving abilities include applying makeup, reading a newspaper or eating behind the wheel.

The solutions
The NHTSA's latest campaign, which has $8.5 million in funding, is one of the most significant initiatives directed specifically at addressing distracted driving. In fact, Associations Now reported that the the Governors Highway Safety Association is supporting the campaign, which is called "U. Drive, U Text. U Pay." The administration's acting administrator, David Friedman, stated that previous efforts that fused both law enforcement and public education had been successful.

"States recognize that distracted driving is a serious challenge on our roadways," said GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins, as quoted by the news source. "Now that nearly every state bans texting while driving, the focus is on enforcing those laws and reminding the public of the need to focus solely on driving while behind the wheel."

Additionally, the National Safety Council has also gotten involved to highlight how using hands-free devices is not any safer while driving. Associations Now revealed that the organization has developed a nationwide video contest, asking participants to submit works that convey the risky nature of multitasking at the wheel.

"The brains of drivers using handheld or hands-free devices are distracted by the conversation itself, which means they are not able to focus solely on the task of driving," explained John Ulczycki, vice president of strategic initiatives at NSC, according to the news outlet.

Meanwhile, car companies are also doing their part. The Chicago Tribune explained that Toyota is just one brand that has been leveraging technology to combat the issue of distracted driving. The automaker teamed up with Microsoft to develop a concept Driver Awareness Research Vehicle, which allows drivers to address certain potentially distracting features before even entering the car. In fact, the vehicle even features a game that encourages kids to buckle their seatbelts more quickly.

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