distracted drivingApril is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the U.S. Department of Transportation is using the occasion to undertake an aggressive campaign, running today through April 15, to ticket drivers who are texting or talking on their cell phones while they’re driving.

“Distracted driving kills, there is no excuse for it, and it must stop,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.

It’s not hyperbole. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 3,154 people were killed and 424,000 injured in all distraction-affected crashes in 2013.

Ten percent

Key statistical findings in NHTSA’s new Distracted Driving Traffic Safety Facts and Teen Distracted Driver fact sheet include:

  • 10 percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2013 were reported as distraction-affected crashes, which are defined as any crash in which a driver was identified as distracted at the time of the crash.
  • 10 percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crash.
  • 244 Americans aged 15 to 19 were killed in distraction-affected crashes.
  • In 2013, there were 480 non-occupants killed in distraction-affected crashes.

The awareness effort is supported by a $5 million national television, radio and digital advertising campaign, which runs from April 6-15, and reminds the public of the deadly consequences of distracted driving, and the financial penalties for violating state distracted driving laws. Ads will run in English and Spanish.

Laws differ

Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for drivers of all ages; 14 states and territories prohibit drivers of all ages from using hand-held cell phones while driving; and 38 states plus the District of Columbia ban cell phone use by novice drivers. Two states, Oklahoma and Texas, restrict school bus drivers from texting.

What you can do

  • To prevent distracted driving, the DOT urges motorists to:
  • Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
  • Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
  • Speak up when you are a passenger and your driver uses an electronic device while driving. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the driving task.
  • Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are the best defense against other unsafe drivers.