This post is a sponsored public service announcement from the National Safety Council, and the opinions are all mine. Pay attention, don’t miss it, April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The ongoing efforts focused on ending phone conversations and texting while driving have met with success, and driver awareness is rising. This year the focus has shifted to educating drivers about the dangers of hands-free phone usage. Studies by the show 80% of drivers mistakenly believe hands-free usage is more safe than handheld phone usage. In fact, the symptoms of distracted driving persist when using a hands-free device.
Seven Days Of Distracted Driving Awareness
- Day 1: Wednesday. My truck is quite noisy. Bumps and squeaks and knocks generally get drowned out by the giant truck engine. I had no idea. I typically would have my phone linked via Bluetooth to my center console, but not today. I’ll normally get two or three notifications or texts on the trip in to school. When a text comes in I see a name and time stamp pop up and hear a short beep. I habitually glance over at it when it happens, and it seems impossible to consciously stop myself. I am surprised at how quickly I have become accustomed to constant hands-free contact in the car.
- Day 2: Thursday. I can drive back and forth to my boys’ school in my sleep. Sadly, I probably have done something close to that before. To my point, I don’t need any outside assistance navigating there, but my phone’s GPS capability is something I use often. I overvalued on-time arrival or never being lost over the costs of distraction. Retroactively, I see how I was wrong. We cannot choose the times our awareness becomes necessary on the road.
- Day 3: It’s Friday! I have taken the distracted driving awareness idea to its natural conclusion, that is removal of all sources of distraction. In addition to no phone, we have turned off the music and instead discuss our impending day. Well, sometimes the discussion does devolve into a property rights battle between my two sons over whatever piece of plastic has accompanied them into the back seat. Fine, every time, but I do have a few things to say about today, when it’s my turn.
- Day 4: Running Saturday errands, and I am proud of myself today. I got a call in the line at the grocery store, and walked out of the store still talking my head off. I got to the car and stopped! It didn’t feel right to get in the car talking on the phone. I don’t have delusions about lapses; I know they’re going to happen. It was just heartening to see positive change. It lets me know it’s working, I think.
- Day 5: Sunday. Didn’t even have to drive. I am starting to think of it like a vacation from the swarm of contacts we all have hovering just behind the nearest satellite. It’s not like these blackouts didn’t already exist. My phone might ring when I’m in the shower, but I’m not risking getting it wet for anyone. I look at it as a small part of my schedule that’s now just for me and the boys. I like always being ready to answer their questions, and I find in-car disputes now sharply reduced as I’m paying attention to who did what first to whom.
- Day 6: Monday. Traffic was thick. There’s no shortage of statistics to illustrate the dangers of distracted driving. The phrase that sticks with me is “one in four”. One in four car accidents are phone related. One in four of over 17,000 accidents each day on U.S. roads. Investigations into the cell phone data surrounding a sample of accidents over the last four years showed that even when phone activity was demonstrably involved, accident victims only admitted use a little over half the time. This leads us to believe one in four to be a low estimate, and could potentially be much higher.
- Day 7: I made it around to Tuesday. I think it got easier as it went. I encourage you to take the pledge to drive free from the distractions of cell phones. Simple in theory; Difficult in execution. No talking, texting, or GPS. No hands-free usage, either. To motivate myself, I do it as an example for my boys. I know they watch my every move, and they are constantly learning, even when I do not realize it. I’m just hoping to plant a seed that some distant day sprouts into a backseat driver. The NSC has great ideas if you want to do more. Distracted Driving Awareness is a cause every parent can get behind.