Save a Life, Don’t Drive Distracted

~ Distracted Driving Awareness Month this April reminds motorists to focus on driving ~

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) is urging motorists to keep their eyes on the road and focus on driving in an effort to reduce distracted driving crashes statewide. The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), a division of the DHSMV, is partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association and AAA – The Auto Club Group to promote April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“Driving distracted significantly slows a driver’s reaction time to effectively avoid a crash, and no one should take that risk,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes.

In 2016, there were almost 50,000 crashes involving distracted driving in Florida, which is more than five crashes every hour. Last year, these distracted driving crashes accounted for more than 3,500 serious bodily injuries and 233 fatalities. Distracted driving crashes have increased 26 percent since 2013.

To successfully avoid a crash, a driver must perceive a hazard, react and give the vehicle time to stop. Driver perception distance, or the distance a vehicle travels from the time a driver sees a hazard until the brain recognizes it, and reaction distance, the distance a car will continue to travel after seeing a hazard until the driver physically hits the brakes, dramatically affects a vehicle’s stopping distance. Even a focused driver going 50 mph will travel nearly the length of a football field before coming to a complete stop. When a driver is not focused on the road, it limits their ability to come to a stop and avoid a crash.

“When you drive distracted, you are putting the lives of everyone in your car, and on the road around you, in danger,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “Driving distracted, even for a moment, can lead to a catastrophe. FHP wants to remind drivers to take the proper steps to eliminate these types of crashes and for everyone to be more focused on driving.”

There are different types of driver distractions, including: visual (taking eyes off the road), manual (taking hands off the wheel) and cognitive (mind not on driving). Texting is one of the most dangerous driver distractions since it involves visual, manual and cognitive distractions. However, texting is not the only distracted driving behavior; other dangerous driving distractions include putting on makeup, tending to children in the backseat, eating, tuning the radio, checking GPS navigation and even daydreaming.

In 2016, drivers age 20–24 were responsible for the highest number of distracted driving crashes, followed closely by 25–29 year-olds and 15–19 year-olds. In fact, drivers under the age of 30 accounted for more than 20,000 distracted driving crashes, of which, 13,514 were from inattentiveness or not being focused on driving.

“It’s easy to underestimate the devastating effects of distracted driving, but that doesn’t make it any less deadly for our drivers and the officers who are trying to keep them safe on our roads and highways,” said Coconut Creek Police Chief Butch Arenal, President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “Make a commitment today to put down your phone and whatever else might be commanding your attention and keep your eyes on the road.”

“Taking your eyes off the road to text has resulted in heartache for many of the families that we proudly serve,” said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association. “To bring attention to this, and other forms of distracted driving, the Florida Sheriffs Association fully supports the DHSMV’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April.”

The DHSMV is also partnering with AAA – The Auto Club Group to educate motorists on the critical role of passengers and how important it is to Be a Good Passenger. “The driver is ultimately responsible for everyone’s safety, but an engaged passenger will help the driver get everyone to their destination safely,” said Amy Stracke, Managing Director, Traffic Safety Advocacy for AAA – The Auto Club Group and Executive Director of the ACG Traffic Safety Foundation. “Responsible ridership and safety go hand in hand.”

Visit DHSMV’s website for more information and resources for the Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign. The public is encouraged to report dangerous and drunk drivers by dialing *FHP (*347).