Buckle up. Phone down. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Let’s start with the obvious: distracted driving is dangerous. No argument there, right? If you’re driving a 3,000 pound vehicle and you get distracted by something, it could be deadly for whoever or whatever is in front of you. Again, we’re all still in agreement I hope. Legally speaking, when you are driving in Virginia you can’t write or send emails or text messages. It’s also against the law to read emails or text messages while driving. If police witness this you might get a ticket and a $125 fine for a first offense. What about using GPS? Or dialing your phone? Both are legal, but think about the distraction and the time your eyes are off the road. Pushing the seven or 10 digit number to call a family member, friend or colleague could keep your attention for four to five seconds. Punching in an address while you drive could keep your attention for longer. When the phone rings, you look at caller i.d. before you answer. That’s legal even though it’s eerily similar to reading a text message. If you change the music on your phone while driving, scrolling down the lists to find the song you can’t get out of your head is similar to reading a short email. Technically this is legal. Virginia law doesn’t address that specific behavior. Here’s the point. Distracted driving involves many different behaviors that can take your EYES off the road, your HANDS off the wheel and your MIND off the task of driving. Legal or not, you need to recognize that glancing away from the road for just one to two seconds can lead to a deadly result. Use common sense. It’s legal to talk on the phone and drive, hand-held or hands-free. But a heated conversation where you are forced to focus more on the phone than the road can lead to inattention blindness. A conversation about little league practice and what to get at the grocery store may not be as distracting. However, both conversations though do force you to focus on a task other than driving. So ask yourself if those conversations are absolutely necessary, or just convenient. We here at DRIVE SMART would say that the only phone conversation that is appropriate while driving is an emergency call. Put the phone down. In fact, place it in the glove compartment so that you’re not tempted to check that caller id or text. Be aware of other distracted driving habits and work throughout this month of awareness to eliminate them. Take your responsibility as a motorist on our roadways seriously. We know that more than 90% of all crashes are due to driver behavior. Take the challenge today. Change your behavior. Ask others to change theirs. Together, we can save lives.