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April national distracted driving month; Texas kicks off its own campaign

Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, TxDOT officials said. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker News Services

4/2/2014

AUSTIN — As the number of crashes caused by distracted drivers continues to rise, the Texas Department of Transportation is urging motorists to put away their mobile devices and other distractions, and pay attention to the road.

April marks National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the kick-off of TxDOT's annual Talk, Text, Crash public education campaign.

"The statistics in Texas are sobering," said John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director. "One in five traffic crashes in Texas is caused by a distracted driver, and last year 459 people were killed as a result. Those deaths were preventable. It's simple: We want drivers to focus 100 percent on driving when they're behind the wheel — for their sake and the sake of others."

Distracted driving-related crashes and fatalities in Texas are highest among young adults and adults over the age of 45. In 2013, the number of Texas crashes involving distracted driving totaled 94,943, up 4 percent from the previous year.

Drivers who use a cell phone when driving are four times more likely to get into a crash serious enough to cause injury. While distractions affect drivers of all ages, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that hand-held cell phone use is highest among 16- to 24-year-olds.

Text messaging is particularly dangerous, Barton said, adding that new research conducted last year by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute showed reaction times double when drivers are distracted by text messaging.

Additionally, sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that's the equivalent of driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.

While cell phone use is the most recognizable driving distraction, any type of behavior that draws a motorist's attention away from driving is dangerous. Barton said distractions can include:

• Texting

• Checking e-mail

• Eating and drinking

• Grooming

• Reading

• Programming a navigation system

• Watching a video, and

• Adjusting a radio, CD player or other audio device.

The Talk, Text, Crash campaign warns motorists about the dangers of distractions and urges them to avoid multitasking or engaging in non-driving activities until they arrive at their destination.      

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

 

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