April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Wireless tools, such as cell phones, have become a big part of our lives. We can stay in touch with friends and family using texts, messages, emails, phone calls, video calls, or social media. Questions can be answered as quickly as we can type. We can stay organized, healthy, relaxed, or entertained. Pictures can be taken any place without a camera. You can keep track of where your loved ones are. People can be found in an emergency. In many cases, these tools have allowed us to work from any place. You can work at home, outside, or while you are traveling.

Being available at any time means that sometimes we feel the need to check our email or answer a text while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that in 2021, 3,522 people were killed in the U.S. by distracted driving. That’s about 8% of the people who live in the Four Corners district! And more than 1,000 people are injured daily in distraction-related incidents.

Distraction can be more than mobile tools. Other distractions might be eating or drinking, changing the radio, setting your seat or mirrors, reading a map or watching navigation, listening to the radio/podcast/audio books, grooming, or talking to other passengers. Other distractions are out of our control such as animals, people walking, traffic, ads, or events. Your brain cannot process two things at once. It has to switch back and forth. Texting is looked at as the most dangerous of distractions because it needs your whole attention visual (your eyes), manual (your hands), and cognitive (your mind). If you text behind the wheel, you are 20 times more likely to be involved in a crash than a non-distracted driver (Distraction.gov). Distracted walking is a problem, too. Many of these same distractions can impact pedestrian safety.

Here are some tips to avoid distraction:

  • Keep your eyes on the road, and stay focused on driving. If you are distracted, you only see a small part of your driving environment. This is true for both hand-held and hands-free use.
  • Pull over in a safe place if you need to use your phone.
  • Don’t make or take phone calls, even if using hands-free.
  • Put your phone on Do Not Disturb while you are driving.
  • Have someone text for you.
  • If it’s too tempting to pick up your phone while driving, keep your phone out of reach. Put it in a trunk, glove box, or back seat of your vehicle until you get to your destination.
  • Make all changes needed before leaving (make sure your seat and mirrors are where they need to be, set your radio, and know where you are going before you go).
  • Keep your emotions in check. If you are emotional, pull over until you are calm enough to drive safely. If you need to, while you are parked safely, call a friend to come help.

Nebraska law does not allow using a wireless device to read, write, or send communication while a vehicle is in motion. This includes being stopped temporarily (such as at a stop light or stuck in traffic). Doing so can result in a fine, as well as points against your driver’s license. More importantly, distracted driving can lead to crashes, injuries, and even death of someone you know or love. Nothing is more important than getting to your destination safely. Keep your attention where it belongs, on the road.