Driving Distraction Risks Targeted by NHTSA Awareness Month

Federal highway safety officials are hoping to raise awareness this month about the risk associated with driving distractions, particularly cell phone use, as a new enforcement campaign is being launched to help reduce auto accident rates nationwide. 

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced “Distracted Driving Awareness Month” on April 5, in coordination with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), and Impact Teen Driver (ITD). The groups will use national advertising and aggressive ticketing protocols that are designed to encourage drivers to stop using handheld devices and change bad driving behaviors.

The NHTSA will be running television, radio, and digital advertisements nationally from April 8 through April 13, using their “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” slogan, aimed to prevent motorists from texting while driving.

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Throughout the month of April, federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies will be implementing a “zero tolerance” policy that will aggressively ticket drivers who are texting or using their mobile devices when behind the wheel.

“Lives are at stake on our highways. NHTSA wants to drive behavior change, stop bad habits, and encourage safe driving,” NHTSA director Mark Rosekind said in a press release. “People need to understand the potential price of distracted driving. The cost of a ticket is nothing, compared to the irrevocable cost of taking someone’s life.”

Additional campaign efforts will include educational seminars on the federal, state and local levels. The OTS announced its support by pledging to conduct a social media campaign that will urge drivers to “Silence the Distraction”.

Individual efforts to prevent driving distraction accidents in California have been growing recently, as the state recognized increasing trends of distracted driving related accidents. According to data collected by the CHP’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, 22,306 people were involved in distracted driving collisions in 2013, and that number grew in 2014 to 22,652.

Federal highway officials indicate there has been a 10 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 in roadway collisions resulting in injuries and fatalities. According to 2014 data collected by the NHTSA, almost 3,200 people were killed in automobile crash related accidents and an estimated 431,000 were injured as a result of driving distractions. Nationally in 2014, teenagers accounted for an estimated 13 percent of all accidents as a result of driving distracted.

In April 2015, the NHTSA reported that ten percent of all drivers between 15 and 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the accident, making this age range the largest proportion of drivers involved in crashes in 2013. The NHTSA findings also indicated that driving distraction accidents may account for the deaths of 480 non-occupants of vehicles in 2013, mostly involving pedestrians.

Several studies by the NHTSA have pinpointed distracted driving as the major contributor to fatal and non-fatal accidents. The agency’s studies over the last decade found distracted driving accounts for 94% of all automobile accidents in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Transportation noted in the campaign announcement that at any given time during daylight hours in 2014, there were as many as 587,000 vehicle being driven by individuals using a handheld device.


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