April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month
If you’re in the habit of replying to text messages while on the road, you might want to put the phone down or run the risk of getting a ticket. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and as part of that, the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” campaign will be running from April 10-15. During that time, state and local law enforcement officials will be on high alert for drivers who are texting or otherwise using mobile devices while behind the wheel and giving out tickets.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said of the campaign, “Distracted driving kills, there’s no excuse for it, and it must stop. Across the country, we’re putting distracted drivers on notice: U Drive. U Text. U Pay. Texting and driving will at least cost you the price of a ticket but it could very well cost you your life or someone else’s.”
In addition to the ticketing campaign, there will also be a $5 million nationwide advertising campaign for television, radio, and digital advertising campaign that will remind people of how dangerous distracted driving can be. The advertising campaign will run from April 6-15. NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind says, “Young people need to understand the dangers of texting and driving before it kills them or someone they love. It’s up to us as parents to set the right example by never texting and driving ourselves and by laying down the law for our young drivers: no texting behind the wheel or no keys to the car. These are driving safety lessons that young drivers will carry with them throughout their lives.”
Although the term “distracted driving” is often used to refer to texting while driving or talking on the phone while driving, it can also include things such as adjusting the radio or heat, eating, reaching to pick up a dropped object, simple inattention, or talking to a passenger in the car.
In the year 2013, at least 3,154 people were killed and 424,000 people were injured in car accidents caused by distracted driving. Among all car accidents in 2013, 10% of fatal car accidents, 18% of car accidents that caused injuries, and 16% of all accidents reported to the police were reported as being caused by distracted driving. Drivers aged 15-19 are the age group most likely to be involved in an accident because of distracted driving. In 2013, 10% of drivers in that age range and were in fatal accidents were reportedly distracted at the time of the accident.
Laws regarding cell phone use while driving vary from state to state. In 45 states plus Washington D.C. and other American territories, all drivers are banned from texting while driving. Only 14 states ban all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving and 38 states and Washington D.C. have laws banning young, inexperienced drivers from using a handheld cell phone while driving. Michigan is one of the states to ban texting while driving for all drivers, but only ban other handheld cell phone while driving for beginner drivers still in the graduated licensing program. However, drivers can still receive a ticket if they commit a traffic infraction while using their phones. Exceptions are made to Michigan’s laws about texting and cell phone use while driving laws if they are being used to report an accident/emergency/serious road hazard, if a person believes their personal safety is in jeopardy, if someone is trying to report or stop a criminal act, or to fulfill a person’s responsibilities as a police officer, firefighter, or volunteer firefighter.