Focus on the road! April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as anything that takes our attention away from driving. Visual distractions occur when the driver is looking at something other than the road. Auditory distractions occur when the driver is preoccupied with sound(s) unrelated to the road. Manual distractions occur when the driver is busy “fiddling” with items other than the steering wheel. And cognitive distractions occur when the driver’s mind is focused on anything other than driving. Some examples of common distractions include:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Loud music
  • Reaching for items in the automobile
  • Talking to another passenger
  • Turning knobs in the car, like the A/C, navigation system or entertainment system
  • Attending to personal appearance, such as applying cosmetics or shaving
  • Reading and writing

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2019, 39% of high school students who drove in the past 30 days texted or emailed while driving on at least one of those days. Additionally, students who texted or emailed while driving were also more likely to report other transportation risk behaviors, like not always wearing a seatbelt, riding with a driver who had been consuming alcohol, or driving after drinking alcohol themselves. In MORE HEALTH’s Trauma Education – “Trauma is No Accident” lesson, high school students learn via virtual interactive games how simple tasks coupled with driving become complex and dangerous. Automobile accidents are already the leading cause of death for teens in our country, and distraction serves to divert attention from the primary task of driving.

Take a moment to discuss safe driving habits with your family, and remember to model these behaviors as parents and caregivers.

  • Adjust mirrors, seat, and temperature prior to driving.
  • Plan your travel route before departure.
  • Consume food and beverages prior to driving, or enjoy food and beverages when you’ve reached the destination.
  • Do not utilize mobile devices while driving, even if utilizing the hands-free function. Hands-free does not mean distraction-free.
  • Do not wear headphones while operating a vehicle.
  • Communicate to passengers the importance of keeping the noise level down and refraining from excessive talking.
  • And always remember to wear your seatbelt!