January 09, 2015

The holiday season, its festivities, decorations and twinkling lights are now in the rearview mirror. While many of us may long to hold tight to the season, it’s time to look ahead to a brand new year. With a glimpse into the horizon ahead, many take the opportunity to make bold resolutions regarding how to best navigate the year ahead.

So often these resolutions include a better health, prosperity and changes to daily habits. However, if you are still considering what to declare as your resolution for 2015, we ask that you might consider something a bit different - eliminating distracted driving habits.

This is critically important not only because it directly impacts your safety on a daily basis, but it can help to protect the lives of so many around you. A pledge to eliminate distracted driving may just save the lives of friends, family and fellow motorist sharing the road.

So what exactly qualifies as distracted driving? According to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving may include any activity that has potential to divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. Safety experts state that distractions of any kind endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.

While texting and using cell phones tend to dominate both the news coverage and national discussion on distracted driving, the pair of governmental agencies lists any of the following as distracted driving activities:

    • 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, or MP3 player

    The data gathered in recent years concerning distracted driving is alarming. According to the NHTSA, 71 percent of young people say they have sent a text message while driving. Meanwhile, 78 percent of young people also say they have read a text message while driving.

    That population has tragically felt the effects of distracted driving as motorists in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal accidents.

    What about adults? According to the NHTSA, 49 percent say they have been in a vehicle while a driver was sending a text message.

    Studies by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that the average time a driver spends with their eyes away from the road is five seconds when reading a text message. At speeds of just 55 mph a vehicle can cover the length of a football field in that time.

    It’s time for change and what better opportunity to do so than at the beginning of a new year. In an effort to raise awareness about this growing safety issue, the NHTSA has made these studies available to the public through its distracted driving website located at www.distraction.gov.

    Furthermore, the group has utilized the hashtag #JustDrive to help spread its message.

    We too encourage all motorists in 2015 to eliminate distractions while behind the wheel and #JustDrive. Post a comment below if you plan to include this as one of your resolutions.

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