April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and GSA Fleet hopes you’ll join us in promoting safe driving.
What was the first lesson you were taught in driver’s ed? For many of us, it was “keep your eyes on the road.” But today, thanks to modern technology, it’s not unusual to look over and see someone talking on the phone or putting on makeup, shaving or even taking a selfie while driving. But while it may seem easy to multitask while you’re inching along in a rolling backup, statistics show it’s an increasingly dangerous idea. Car crashes are now the number one cause of unintentional deaths in the United States and distracted driving is the most significant cause of injuries and death. This trend has deadly consequences: federal statistics show that in 2014, crashes involving distracted drivers killed 3,179 people and left 431,000 injured.
According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 90 percent of all car crashes are caused by human error, including inattention. Drivers using handheld devices, including cell phones, are four times as likely to be involved in a serious crash.
According to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds — the equivalent of driving with your eyes closed at 55-mph for the length of an entire football field. A 2014 special article in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the risk of a crash or near-crash among novice drivers goes up significantly when they start performing secondary tasks while behind the wheel, including texting and dialing phone numbers.
Texting is of heightened concern because it combines three types of distraction — visual, manual, and cognitive. In other words, texting involves taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off the task of driving. To tackle this ever-increasing problem, the NHTSA is focusing on ways to change the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education. These same tactics have curbed drinking and driving, and increased the use of seat belts.
So the next time you are pressed for time, and it seems like multitasking in the car is the best decision, remember those 3,179 lives that were taken because someone decided they could do two things at once. Please join us in taking the Focused Driver Challenge and pledge to drive cell free. A text or call is not worth your life.
Throughout April, GSA Fleet will be sending information to fleet managers and drivers about distracted driving and how to encourage safe driving habits, including information about an accredited Defensive Driving Course that’s offered at no additional to all drivers of GSA leased vehicles. Join us in taking the pledge to drive cell free and also visit the National Safety Council website and download and share their Distracted Driving Awareness Month materials.