A closeup image into the car window of a young woman's hands texting on her smartphone. 2020's distracted driving awareness month's theme is U drive, U text, U pay.

Distracted Driving Awareness Month: Are You Paying Attention?6 min read

April is normally Distracted Driving Awareness Month, yet due to recent events, it will be postponed to a later determined date this year. The month focuses on a collective effort to promote safe driving behavior “through legislation, enforcement, public awareness, and education” (Traffic Safety Marketing). 

While millions of Americans are currently working from home, many of our roadways are less congested. However, that does not mean that distracted driving has disappeared, and once life returns to a sense of normalcy, so will our highways. Distracted Driving Awareness Month highlights a public safety issue that is continually with us.

This spring, The Flood Law Firm hopes to remind drivers #WhatReallyCounts. Take a look at the video below to see what we mean:

How Distracted Driving Awareness Month Began

As with many great causes, suffering is often at the root. Just ask Shelley Forney, who lost her nine-year-old daughter, Erica, when she was struck head-on by a distracted driver while riding her bike. Erica was just fifteen pedals away from home and passed away two days later from traumatic brain injury on Thanksgiving Day, 2008.

The driver, a woman in her mid-thirties, had turned her eyes from the road while driving her Ford Exhibition SUV and drifted into the bike lane. She hadn’t even realized she hit Erica.

A stone angel atop a tombstone next to a yellow daisy signify a child's burial site. Distracted Driving Month began with the death of a 9-year-old girl by a woman in her SUV on a cell phone.

What stayed with Forney was the fact that her daughter’s death was 100% preventable. Shelley channeled the grief of losing her child into speaking before audiences wherever she could, eventually founding her own non-profit, Focus Driven, and becoming a safety speaker.

Erica’s story touched thousands, including former Representative Betsey Markey (D-CO). The house of representatives was voting on a resolution that matched Shelley’s goals, with growing recognition of the problem that distracted driving had become. On March 23rd, 2010, House Resolution 1186 passed overwhelmingly, designating April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

 

Distracted Driving Facts

It’s difficult to comprehend a loss such as Forney’s unless you’ve experienced it personally. However, the goal of Distracted Driving Awareness Month is to prevent even one more family from having to deal with the tragedy felt by the Forney family.

If their story doesn’t convince you to #JustDrive, take a look at the startling distracted driving statistics below:

  • Around 700 people a day are injured due to distracted driving (National Safety Council)
  • 9 people die each day due to distracted driving (DMV.org)
  • Almost 10% of drivers a day admit to cell phone use while behind the wheel
  • Only 1 in 5 iPhone owners use the Do Not Disturb mode while driving.
  • 8% of all crash deaths in 2018 were attributed to distracted driving (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Crash risk is 2-6 times greater when drivers were handling a cell phone
  • The stats on distracted driving are “certainly” underreported since guilty drivers do not typically self-report and police reports also lack evidence
  • Phone conversations even on hands-free devices are still cognitively distracting, meaning they see their surroundings but are unable to process the information they see.
  • Texting while driving exponentially increases chances of crashing
  • Texting while driving is banned in all but two states

Are you contributing to the problem? Drivers are aware of the dangers, yet a significant portion of them still admit to diverting their attention from the road.

A young woman drives as she looks down at her phone. The driver next to her is not distracted.

The Best Way to Deal With a Distracted Driver

How do you handle being on the road with a reckless driver? Let’s first clarify what defines distracted driving.

With 96% of Americans owning a cell phone, it’s easy to associate distracted driving with cell phone use. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns that distracted driving is “anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.” This can include everything from having a leisurely conversation on a hands-free device to settling your kids in the backseat or changing the music.

There are three ways to lose focus of the road:

  • Manual: Physically taking your hands off the wheel
  • Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
  • Cognitive: Being mentally or emotionally distracted, yet keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road

If you find yourself on the road with a distracted driver, keep your distance. Drivers who are preoccupied while driving tend to brake suddenly, drift between lanes and fail to maintain consistent speeds. Put a buffer between your car and theirs, trailing far enough behind or with enough space on the side that you won’t be caught off guard by their erratic behavior.

If it’s bad enough, you also may want to call the police. If you perceive the person may be dozing off at the wheel or actually intoxicated, take down the license plate number and call the police after you have parked.

 

How to Prevent Distracted Driving

In 2018, almost 3,000 people lost their lives on the road to a driver who wasn’t paying attention. In Erica Forney’s case, the woman who took her life faced more than a marred driving record and community service orders; she faces a lifetime of regret knowing she could have spared a child’s life.

If you are not a part of the solution, you are likely a part of the problem. Below are simple steps you can take to ensure you don’t give in to distracted driving.

A brown purse with a banana and cell phone sit piled onto a passenger seat in a car. Help prevent distracted driving by putting cell phones out of reach.

Put your cell phone away. This means out of reach, and do it before you start your car. Use the Do Not Disturb setting while you are driving if your phone has one. There is no reason to take a call during a drive. Even hands-free devices can lead to cognitive distractions. Whatever it is, it can wait.

Think ahead. Will your child need a toy during the drive? Are all controls set to how you want them, including temperature, music, mirrors, etc.? Make these adjustments before you start your drive. Simple preparation could spare you precious moments focusing on the road.

Just drive. Don’t multitask! Eating, applying makeup, making phone calls or entertaining yourself are all distractions that might make you feel efficient but make you less attentive. Don’t do it – just drive!

 

Were You Injured by a Distracted Driver?

Distracted driving is 100% preventable, and it starts with you. Our roads are safer when everyone does their part. However, we understand that negligent drivers often fail to grasp the weight of their careless decisions until it’s too late. We hope you never find yourself in this situation, though if you do – we are here for you.

At The Flood Law Firm, we take road safety seriously. Our Connecticut personal injury attorneys have helped families receive justice after suffering due to a distracted driver. If you or a loved one has been impacted, we are here to help. Please contact our offices today at (860) 346-2695 to speak privately with our attorneys. There is no cost or obligation for your phone call.

About 

Founded by brothers Brian and Christopher Flood, The Flood Law Firm is dedicated to helping those who have been injured. Learn more about our firm here.

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