April is National Distracted Driving Month
We've all seen it: the car in front of us on the highway, drifting slowly out of its lane before correcting itself, only to start drifting again seconds later. A closer look at the driver reveals their eyes are trained down, focused on sending a text or reading an email.
You may think that a few seconds' glance at an incoming text message is harmless, but a few seconds is all it takes to cause serious harm. Are you doing all that you can to eliminate distractions while you're behind the wheel?
Text messages, tweets, status updates, and selfies have become ‘round the clock preoccupations that not only interfere with productivity: they can also result in motor vehicle accidents. The mobile devices that have become a constant part of our daily routines are contributing to a deadly epidemic on our roads. According to Distraction.gov, the official U.S. Government website for distracted driving, 3,154 individuals were killed in distracted driving crashes in 2013.
In 2010, Massachusetts enacted the Safe Driving Law, which "bans sending, typing, or reading electronic messages to or from handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle," including internet use. The law also bans all handheld electronic devices by junior operators while behind the wheel.
It's not just cell phones that interfere with our focus on the roads. Kids, pets, a chatty friend, the radio dial, and even that morning coffee are all potentially dangerous distractions. The Governors Highway Safety Association has developed some important tips for managing distractions while driving.
The experts at BMC also caution against these types of preventable injuries. BMC's Injury Prevention Coordinator, Lisa Allee, urges you to shut off the alert or vibration on your phone so you won't be impelled to pick it up and look. "The fewer distractions, the better," Allee said. "Reading or writing a three or four word text while driving 50 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded."
"In Massachusetts in 2011, motor vehicle crashes accounted for 17% of all unintentional deaths," Allee said. "We can imagine that distractions and impairment led to a large number of these crashes."
This month and throughout the year, we can all benefit from following the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's trending, and powerfully simple, two-word hashtag: #justdrive.