This month is Distracted Driving Awareness month, and the safety campaign's tagline from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration puts texting drivers on notice: “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”
The public awareness effort will be supported by a $5 million advertising campaign, which will run from April 6-15, and by heightened enforcement of laws and ordinances targeting distracted driving. From April 10-15, state and local law enforcement agencies will aggressively ticket drivers who are texting or using their mobile devices when behind the wheel, NHTSA said.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx kicked off the public awareness campaign on April 2 in Washington, D.C., where young drivers demonstrated the dangers of distracted driving on a temporary test track.
“Distracted driving kills, there is no excuse for it, and it must stop,” said Foxx.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind was also on hand for the event.
Based on fatal accident reports, NHTSA data shows that at least 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving all distracted drivers in 2013, including those who were texting and driving. NHTSA estimates that 424,000 Americans were injured in all distraction-affected crashes in 2013.
Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for drivers of all ages. Additionally, 14 states and territories prohibit drivers of all ages from using handheld cell phones while driving. A total of 38 states, plus the District of Columbia, ban cell phone use by novice drivers. Two states, Oklahoma and Texas, restrict school bus drivers from texting.
NHTSA recommends that motorists always turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive. The agency also advises passengers to speak up when a driver begins using an electronic device while operating a vehicle, and to offer to make the call for the driver. That way, the driver can focus his or her full attention on the task of driving.