April Is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 - 9:00am

April is Distracted Driving Awareness month. Based upon AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s (AAA) research, approximately 87% of drivers engage in unsafe driving behavior, which shows that “[t]here is a culture of indifference for far too many drivers when it comes to road safety.” AAA’s preliminary estimates for 2015 projected a 9% increase in deaths related to automobile accidents.

Distracted Driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include: texting; using a cell phone or smart phone; eating and drinking; talking to passengers; grooming; reading, including maps; using a navigation system; watching a video; adjusting a radio, CD player, MP3 player, and car dashboards/infotainment systems. 

In-car dashboard technologies are continuing to increase. Unfortunately with hands-free and voice control features, most people are unaware of the distractions and still believe that hands-free devices/voice control features are safer than hand-held. However, AAA’s research has found that these dashboard features actually increase driver distraction by leaving the driver in a state of cognitive distraction for as long as 27 seconds.

Risk Management is encouraging state agencies to voluntarily adopt and implement distracted driving policies that restrict the use of hand-held and hands-free devices while driving on state business, except as strictly necessary to fulfill approved and designated critical agency functions or in life and safety emergency situations. Such policies must require more than is already prohibited by law in NDCC 39-08-23. Agencies that choose to adopt distracted driving policies that restrict the use of hand-held cell phones consistent with that agency’s operations and critical business needs will be eligible to receive a discount on its Risk Management Fund contribution. Contact Risk Management at rminfo@nd.gov or 701.328.7584 for more information or a sample policy statement.

Free materials can be obtained from the National Safety Council. Additional Distracted Driving Resources have been compiled to assist agencies with training and implementation of distracted driving policies and practices.