At any given moment, more than 600,000 drivers on the road are using a handheld cell phone. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 were injured in crashes due to distracted driving. To raise awareness about distracted driving behaviors and curb the high rate of fatalities caused by it, the National Safety Council (NSC) has declared April as the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Distracted driving: “Hands-free is not risk free”
The NSC has released several public awareness campaign materials including infographics, fact-sheets, and posters around cell phone distracted driving. The campaign aims to:
- stop people from using cell phones while driving (including hands-free devices)
- educate drivers about dangers due to cognitive distraction
- encourage public to create awareness against using cell phones behind the wheel.
The campaign also bursts the “hands-free is risk free” myth with a detailed illustration.
“While many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device, it’s just not true. The problem is the brain does not truly multitask. Just like you can’t read a book and talk on the phone, you can’t safely operate a vehicle and talk on the phone,” says NSC’s David Teater.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched powerful ads with the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” slogan to drive home the point that distracted driving can be tragic and lethal. The Department of Transportation has joined hands with law enforcement to conduct a national crackdown on distracted driving caused by cell phone use between April 10-15.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says, “Across the country, we’re putting distracted drivers on notice: If you’re caught texting while driving, the message you receive won’t be from your cell phone, but from law enforcement.”
Campaign receives positive response from several organizations
Companies and cell phone operators nationwide are joining the campaign and establishing policies to ensure employees practice safe driving. The Philadelphia Insurance Companies has come up with a distracted driving online course while AT&T has launched a mobile app similar to “out of office” reply to let callers know that the recipient cannot respond because he or she is driving.
At the Franklin Building Supply in Boise, where a lot of on-the-job driving in involved, employees are fined $500 if they drive distracted. “If the engine is in gear, you can’t touch your phone. No hands free device, no talking on your cell phone, nothing,” says Rick Lierz, president and CEO, Franklin Building Supply. Though no accidents due to distracted driving has been reported so far, the company that owns more than 200 vehicles believes that it is better to take early precautions and mitigate risks.