The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, launched a campaign raising attention to the dangers of distracted driving. As a recent release by the agency notes, April is “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month,” and the NHTSA marked the occasion with a weeklong enforcement effort intended to stop drivers who were texting while driving and inform them about the risks of their behavior.
Titled “U Drive. U Text. U Pay,” the campaign drew attention to some sobering statistics regarding distracted driving. According to the NHTSA, more than 29,000 people lost their lives in car crashes involved distracted driving between 2012 and 2020; 3,142 lives were lost in such crashes in 2020 alone; and eight percent of car crashes resulting in fatalities in 2020 involved distracted driving.
Texting while operating a motor vehicle is illegal in 48 states, per the campaign, as well as the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. A paid media campaign associated with U Drive, U Text, U Pay was implemented earlier this month, with the goal of educating drivers between 18 and 24 of the dangers of texting while driving. “According to NHTSA data,” the release states, these drivers “are more likely to die in distraction-affected crashes than any other age group.”
The NHTSA offers a number of tips to drivers seeking to avoid the fatal risks of distracted driving. Drivers are advised to pull over and park their car “in a safe location” before reading or sending text messages; to ask one of their passengers to serve as “designated texter,” using the driver’s phone on their behalf; to avoid using social media while operating a motor vehicle; to turn on their phone’s “do not disturb” function while driving; and to “speak up” when family members or friends are texting while driving.
In a statement about the distracted driving campaign, NHTSA Deputy Administrator Steven Cliff forcefully called for the elimination of distracted driving fatalities. “By working with law enforcement and local communities, we can educate and empower drivers to put the phone down and focus on the road,” he said. “In working with localities and law enforcement, NHTSA is also helping ensure that these distracted driving enforcement efforts are conducted in a fair and equitable way.”
More information about the dangers of distracted driving, which includes texting or the use of social media while driving, is available via the NHTSA.