In response to data that has shown a 10% increase in distracted driving since 2018, federal safety officials have launched a new driver safety campaign this month, which is intended to raise awareness about the risks associated with attempting to use smartphones, text, drink, eat or engage in other activities while behind the wheel.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has declared that April 2021 is Distracted Driver Awareness Month, which will involve increased law enforcement and national advertising campaigns designed to remind drivers about the serious and potentially fatal consequences that may result from driving while texting or engaging in other risky behaviors.
From 2012 to 2019, there were over 26,000 deaths linked to automobile accidents involving distracted drivers, according to the federal regulators. While there has been a steady increase most years, the number of deaths jumped 10% in 2019, with 3,142 fatalities linked to driving distractions, which can include attempting to talk or text on a phone, engaging with other people in the vehicle, changing the stereo or entertainment system or consuming food and drinks while on the road.
The NHTSA warns that distracted driving endangers both drivers and those around them, because it pulls the driver’s focus away from the wheel for crucial seconds that may be needed to make an emergency maneuver.
The national awareness campaign will include “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” advertisements, which will highlight the deadly dangers and legal consequences of texting while driving.
Between April 8 and April 12, there will also be increased enforcement nationwide focused on driving distracted, to demonstrate a commitment to enforcing texting laws in a fair and equitable way.
So far, 48 states banned text messaging while driving, while 25 states also prohibit drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving. Among teens or new drivers, 39 states entirely ban cell phone use.
According to NHTSA, drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 years are at a particularly high risk of using handheld electronic devices while driving. However, the risks are not limited to teens and young adults, as every driver should be focused on the road rather than doing activities that could be done while stopped.
Tips that will be highlighted by NHTSA throughout the campaign include recommendations that drivers pull over and park in a safe location before reading and sending text messages, or provide a passenger access to your phone as a “designated texter.” Drivers are also being encouraged not to scroll through apps or social media while driving, indicating that placing the cell phone in a glove box or trunk may help avoid the temptation.