Last year, almost 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes, making it possibly the deadliest year on U.S. roads since 2007, according to the National Safety Council. The major cause? Distracted driving.
With the warm weather, more drivers are hitting the road, leading to more crashes, with distracted driving having a huge impact on everyone’s safety. Texting, making a phone call, adjusting your navigation system, eating, drinking – anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving – is making more drivers than ever take their eyes off the road.
“Each one of these 40,000 people represent an individual whose life was cut short prematurely,” says Kara Macek, senior director of communications and programs for the Governors Highway Safety Association. “States tell us that the three primary factors in traffic fatalities continue to be booze, belts and speed, but drugs, distraction and drowsiness are also increasingly contributing factors to crashes, so we are dealing with a wide spectrum of human behaviors that are challenging to change.”
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Texting is most alarming. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says sending or reading a text while driving takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, officials say that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
“Unfortunately, the proliferation of new apps and features on smartphones means that drivers are not only texting, but also Snapchatting, Instagramming, Tweeting while behind the wheel,” Macek says. “Any interaction with your phone while driving is a risky proposition.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Here are some driving safety tips Amica Mutual Insurance Co. shared from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America:
- Plan ahead and allow extra travel time: If you’re using an electronic navigation system, check directions before leaving to make sure you know where you’re going. Blindly following GPS systems can cause accidents.
- Observe speed limits, including lower speeds in work zones: Stay focused on the road, and be aware of changing traffic patterns caused by construction.
- Keep your eyes on the road: When the entire family is in the car, including pets, distractions can multiply. Never allow a pet to ride in your lap while driving. And remember eating in the car can be just as distracting as using a cellphone.
- Use safe phone habits: If you’re making a call from the road, use voice-activated dialing or ask a passenger to make the call. Let voicemail pick up calls when driving alone. Don’t text while driving, and if you must use the phone or send a text, pull off the road to a safe location.