Put down that phone: It’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 3,500 Americans were killed because of distracted driving in 2020 and more than 300,000 people were injured in distraction related motor vehicle crashes across the nation. In Alabama it is illegal to text and drive, but there is a new bill in the state legislature this year that, if passed, would make even holding your phone while driving illegal.

“Distracted driving is defined as an any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. It not only endangers the safety of the driver and passengers, it also puts the lives of other motorists in harm’s way,” said ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor.

While there are a number of activities that could divert a driver’s attention from the road, Taylor said the most alarming distractive trend has become the use of cell phones and other smart devices while operating a vehicle.

“We give the analogy that if you look down at your phone to either read or send a text message for just 5 seconds, at 55 miles per hour you have already traveled the distance of a football field. You may not have the intention to hurt anyone, but if you are involved in a crash that causes injuries or fatalities due to distracted driving, you’re going to change that person’s life and their family’s life forever, as well as your own,” said Director of ALEA’s Department of Public Safety Colonel Jon Archer.

State Trooper Cpl. Reginal King agrees and said texting is the most common way people drive distracted.

“If you are in traffic stopped at a stop sign or traffic light, it is illegal to send a text and it is also illegal to read a text,” said King. “If you have to send a text, the safest thing to do is to pull off the roadway and send that text.”

While the use of cell phones and other smart devices has become one of the most prevalent distracted driving behaviors, there are a variety of other activities motorists need to be aware of.

“Most people associate distracted driving with the use of a cellphone,” King said. “There are so many other forms of distracted driving that takes your eyes off the roadway, like turning around to talk to passenger or  changing the radio station. We even see cases where passengers are applying makeup while they are driving. We want to encourage everyone to take a few extra moments to do those things at home, even it requires you to wake up an additional 30 or 40 minutes earlier.”

In recognition of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) Highway Patrol Division is encouraging drivers and motorcyclists to steer
clear of distractions and pay attention to the road.

ALEA strongly urge motorists to avoid the following while driving:

  • eating or drinking
  • talking to passengers
  • self-grooming, applying makeup
  • using a navigation device or adjusting the radio or climate controls.

ALEA offers the following distracted driving prevention tips:
For Drivers:
1. Put aside your electronic distractions. Do not use or reach for devices while driving. Putting phones on “do not disturb” mode can help remove the temptation to browse online at a red light or respond right away to a text message.
2. Avoid multitasking. Anything that occupies your mind or vision can be a distraction behind the wheel. Make time at home to eat meals or put on makeup, so you can focus on
the road.
3. Plan your route before you go. Programming your navigation system while you drive can take your eyes off the road. It is better to ask a passenger to do it or to enter your
destination before you leave home.
4. Be alert for pedestrians and cyclists, especially those who may themselves be distracted

For Parents:
1. Set a good example for young drivers and talk with teen drivers about responsible driving.
2. Familiarize yourself with the state’s Graduated Driver License Law (GDL). That information can be found on ALEA’s website.
3. Keep kids and pets safe. Make sure kids are in proper car seats and that pets stay secured in their zone in the back of your vehicle. It can also help reduce distractions if pets are
not roaming about the car.

For Passengers:
1. Speak up. If you see someone texting or otherwise driving while distracted, say something and let them know that you are not comfortable with that behavior. Encourage your children to do the same when they are passengers in a friend’s car. It could save a life.
2. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the road.

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