Distracted Driving: Awareness and Prevention


By Debbie Hersman

Erica Forney, from Fort Collins, Colo., should be 13-years-old now. She might be wearing braces, playing sports, gossiping with girlfriends and looking forward to and maybe also worrying about going to high school next year.

None of that will happen for Erica. She was killed in November 2008. She was 9 and riding her bike home from school. A driver, looking down at her cell-phone, never saw the child in her path.

Today, Erica is remembered by her family and friends, and also by the month of April, which is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Former Rep. Betsy Markey (D-CO) introduced a resolution designating the month and dedicated it to Erica Forney. The House of Representatives passed the resolution 410-2 on March 23, 2010.

This April marks the third year for National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which is growing in importance. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 70 percent of Americans ages 18 – 64 report talking on their phones while driving in the past 30 days. About 30 percent say they texted while driving.

For years, the NTSB has seen how deadly distraction can be across all modes of transportation, but it’s on our highways where distraction claims the greatest number of lives. After investigating a crash where a pickup driver sent and received 11 texts in the 11 minutes before he ran into a truck triggering collisions that killed two and injured 38, the NTSB called for a nationwide ban on the use of personal electronic devices. This year, we put Eliminate Distraction in Transportation on our Most Wanted List.

Putting attention back in the driver’s seat requires information and outreach, like Distracted Driver Awareness Month. It also requires good laws and strong enforcement. It’s at the state level where crucial traffic safety legislation is enacted, such as the seat-belt laws that have helped save hundreds of thousands of lives. As for distraction laws, ten states and the District of Columbia ban all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving; 39 states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers.

Here are two web sites where you check out where your state stands on distraction and safety:

Governors Highway Safety Association

National Safety Council

And, here are two ways to make our roads safer and save lives: Drive safely every trip by putting away your portable electronic devices and get involved.

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