April 2016 is Distracted Driving Awareness Month: Danger is Epidemic in Indiana


April 2016 is Distracted Driving Awareness Month: Danger is Epidemic in Indiana

Distracted driving is a very serious problem here in our part of the country. Car crashes and traffic accidents throughout Indiana and Illinois are being traced more and more often to a driver who was distracted from driving, with their inattention to the road causing a serious accident.

From our perspective, distracted driving (along with distracted walking and pedestrian accidents), is a very real and present danger here that is sadly so preventable. These serious injuries and wrongful deaths should not happen!

Accordingly, we post about the dangers of distracted driving regularly, as we monitor not only how governmental agencies and law enforcement are working to combat distracted driving but how private companies are focused upon creating products designed to thwart drivers from operating their motor vehicles while texting or talking on their phones.

There are some frightening facts to consider, for instance, did you know:

1. According to researchers, the human brain will be distracted for 27 seconds after dialing a phone number or sending a text via voice, and that is more than enough time for a crash to happen. Just dialing can cause a crash where innocent people are severely injured or perish in the crash.
2. The Indiana Department of Transportation studies reveal that not only are more traffic accidents and car crashes involving Hoosiers happening because of texting and driving instead of someone driving drunk, 80% of all Indiana traffic accidents and crashes involve some form of driver distraction. That’s right: EIGHTY PERCENT.

The reality is that even hands-free use of a phone while you are driving is dangerous. While there are other forms of distracted driving (checking the GPS, for example), talking or texting on a smart phone remains the primary risk factor for a motor vehicle accident involving distracted driving.

Far too few drivers recognize that they are a danger to themselves or others when they talk on the phone while driving, even if they will acknowledge that distracted driving is a danger when others do it. Hopefully, this year’s awareness campaign will help some of these drivers break the habit of using their phones while they drive.

APRIL 2016 IS NATIONAL DISTRACTED DRIVING AWARENESS MONTH

This month, we join with the national campaign to increase public awareness about the dangers of driving distracted. The National Safety Council (NSC), the National Law Enforcement Liason Program (NLELP), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) are among those who are actively campaigning in April 2016 against what researchers consider to be a national epidemic, endangering countless lives each day.

The NSC is promoting “Take Back Your Drive,” with free posters, tip sheets, info-graphics and webinars at its site. It is asking that drivers pledge to drive “cell free,” and that those who take the pledge share that they have done so on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites.

The NHTSA is expanding its national observation of Distracted Driving Awaremenss Month, now in its third year, with its “U Drive. U Pay” campaign. The agency will be placing public service spots on both television and radio, as well as in social media web sites, in both English and Spanish. The theme of the NHTSA campaign in April 2016 is “if you’re texting, you’re not driving.” Their targeted audience this year: men and women between the ages of 18 and 34 years.

The NLELP is joining with NHTSA in its “U Drive. U Pay” campaign. Law enforcement agencies around the country and in Indiana and Illinois will be targeting drivers who may be driving distracted and focusing upon enforcing the current state distracted driving laws.

Indiana Campaign Against Distracted Driving

In the State of Indiana, a new specialty license plate is available this year that reads, “Put the Phone Down.” The hope, of course, is to have the license plate itself serve as a warning and reminder to drivers on Indiana roads not to drive while distracted by their phones.

Additionally, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, Indiana Department of Labor, Indiana Department of Transportation, and Indiana State Police are sponsoring a scholarship contest for both high school and college students (winners are eligible for up to $5,000 in scholarships) aimed to promote public awareness of distracted driving.

Student who enter their videos or images will need to use the hashtag #TXTL8RIN in their entry and they must register their Twitter account with www.txtl8r.in.gov. For more details on the scholarship contest, read the contest rules here. The deadline for submitting an entry is 11:59 PM on April 30, 2016.

WHY IS DISTRACTED DRIVING SO DANGEROUS?

From Distraction.gov:

  • Drivers in their 20s are 23 percent of drivers in all fatal crashes, but are 27 percent of the distracted drivers and 38 percent of the dis­tracted drivers who were using cell phones in fatal crashes. (NHTSA)
  • The percentage of drivers text-messaging or visibly manipu­lating handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014. Since 2007, young drivers (age 16 to 24) have been observed manipulating electronic devices at higher rates than older drivers. (NHTSA)
  • At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010. (NOPUS)
  • Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. (2009, VTTI)
  • A 2015 Erie Insurance distracted driving survey reported that drivers do all sorts of dangerous things behind the wheel including brushing teeth and changing clothes. The survey also found that one-third of drivers admitted to texting while driving, and three-quarters saying they’ve seen others do it. (ERIE INSURANCE)

WHAT ARE THE INDIANA AND ILLINOIS LAWS AGAINST DISTRACTED DRIVING?

Here are the current Indiana and Illinois laws on distracted driving.  Although texting while driving is banned in both states, other forms of phone-use while driving are not — and in Indiana, there is no law currently on the books that makes hand-held use of a phone while driving illegal.

1. Hand-held ban?

Illinois law bans all hand-held use of cell phones. Indiana does not.

2. All cell phones ban?

In Illinois, school bus drivers, drivers under the age of 19, and drivers under 19 years of age with a learner’s permit are banned from using their phones.  In Indiana, drivers under the age of 18 were banned from using their phones.  Last year, a new 2015 law was passed that bans Hoosiers under the age of 21 years from using a phone while driving (hand-held or hands-free) unless they are calling 911 because of an emergency.

3. Texting ban?

In Illinois, all drivers are banned from texting while driving. Ditto for Indiana.

Distracted driving is the cause of many serious traffic accidents as well as the reason that many people are being killed in traffic accidents here in Indiana and Illinois. Let’s all work together this month to educate ourselves and our loved ones about the risks of using a phone while driving. Please be careful out there!

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