How Did Distracted Driving Month Get Started?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that during daylight hours, about 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while driving around the country. In 2015, over 3,400 people were killed in car crashes involving distracted drivers, while 391,000 were injured.
Back in 2010, Congress passed a resolution to create a special month devoted to increasing awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. Ever since then, April has been the official Distracted Driving Awareness Month, with safety organizations around the country running programs to help encourage drivers to keep their eyes on the road.
How Distracted Driving Month Came to Be
It was a tragic distracted driving accident that inspired one mother to talk to her representative about increasing awareness of the dangers of distraction. Shelley Forney, safety speaker and advocate, was on her way home from a doctor’s appointment when she found fire trucks and ambulances near her house. She ran to find out what was going on, only to find her nine-year-old daughter Erica lying on the road with paramedics trying to help her.
The girl had been riding her bike home when she was hit by an SUV that had drifted into the bike lane. An investigation of the accident revealed that the driver had been talking on her cell phone at the time of the accident. The young girl later died of her injuries at the hospital.
Forney’s story hit the news, and soon she had a meeting with U.S. Representative Betsy Markey. After that meeting, Markey submitted a Congressional resolution to designate April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, in honor or Erica and all the other victims of distracted driving accidents. Congress passed the resolution in March 2010.
Safety Organizations Need Community Members to Help Spread the Word
This year is the eighth year that we’ll focus on distracted driving in April, yet the issue remains just as much a concern now—perhaps even more—than it was in 2010. In addition to cell phones continuing to present attractive distractions, many vehicles are now equipped with infotainment systems that are just as distracting as smartphones.
During the month of April, you can expect to see messages online and on television warning people to put their cell phones away when driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will work with county and local law enforcement to support campaigns that increase awareness. Police departments are likely to be focusing more carefully on citing those who are texting while driving, but each community needs the help of the community members to truly increase safety.
You can participate by taking the pledge to stay focused and avoid driving distracted yourself. The National Safety Council (NSC) provides a pledge you can share among your co-workers, friends, and family members, reminding people of the very real danger or taking their eyes off the road.