MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the West Virginia chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) wants the public to take this time to inform themselves of all the dangers posed by distracted driving.
Trevor Darago, West Virginia’s SADD State Coordinator, said mobile phones are the biggest distraction to drivers. That is why he recommends simply putting the phone away, or finding alternatives to keep your eyes on the road.
“If someone else is with you, maybe give them the cellphone,” Darago said. “And if you get a text message, have them send out ‘hi can I take a message he’s driving right now – he/she’. Or if you’re by yourself, put your phone on do not disturb. There are a couple of apps available that you can actually set up to send a text message while you’re driving. I know some people like to put their cellphone even in the glove box, so they’re not tempted to pull it over if they get a phone call or text message.”
The big push to end, or even curb, distracted driving, Darago said, is largely motivated by the fact that 3,142 lives were lost in 2019 as a result of it, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
That number, Darago said, on its own doesn’t tell us much. Only when you realize that it was a 10 percent increase from the previous year, do you start to understand why distracted driving is an issue. He described the growing number of deaths each year as “the biggest danger”.
“What we’re seeing is that this number is growing and growing and growing,” he said. “And it could be because we have more drivers on the road, but I think that the true issue is we have more distractions.”
Distractions like cellphones are obvious, but there are many others that people don’t consider. Things like eating, listening to music too loudly, or even other passengers.
“One common distraction that we often forget are passengers,” Darago said. “I know a lot of parents may have younger kids in the backseat, or even someone in the passenger’s seat. What that can do is, really, distract you as you get caught up in some conversation, or maybe actions. It takes your vision, your focus off the road and onto those people.”
The question then remains, if we know distracted driving fatalities are increasing annually and that distractions can come in many forms, what can the public do?
“What we can do is be more mindful of our actions while driving the car because, honestly, there should be no other action other than driving the car,” Darago said. “And so if we know this number is growing and we’re more mindful about it, I think we can fight this issue in our society.”