A bunch of years ago, I was in a car accident at a busy intersection. I was stopped at a red light, and as I glanced up in my rearview mirror, I saw a car coming at me. I could see that the driver was looking at something in the car, with her head turned away from the windshield, and she was not slowing down. I sat in my car and waited for her to hit me. I saw it coming, and those few seconds felt like hours.
The girl that was driving was young. A new driver. Her boyfriend was there, and he kept telling her how stupid she was. But I have trouble passing too much judgement. Even though I still wince when I see a car coming up behind me, I can’t be too mad because there are times when it could have happened to me. Cups of coffee, CD changes, sandwiches, even bumper stickers on other cars…they’re all distractions, and most of us have let them get the best of us at one time or another.
And now, cell phones. People are talking and texting behind the wheel, which means those who do drive distracted are likely to be more distracted than ever. As a busy mom who works at home, I’m constantly multitasking, and I’m the first to admit that I struggle with getting distracted in the car. When my phone rings or dings, my first instinct is to grab it. And since I’m already dealing with kids, music, COFFEE… the distraction level can escalate quickly.
This is bad for 2 very important reasons: 1) It’s extremely dangerous, and 2) it’s illegal!
In Pennsylvania, it is against the law to use your cell phone while driving to send or receive texts, emails or messages of any kind. If you are caught, you will incur a $50 fine. Making phone calls, on the other hand, is not illegal, PennDOT suggests pulling off the road, using a hands-free device, and not participating in emotionally heated conversations.*
It didn’t take me long to change my ways, and you can, too. Start out by putting these 3 tips into action:
1. Charge your phone at home. The car charger is located in a place that will put your phone within arm’s reach. Temptation is your enemy, so avoid charging your phone in the car if possible.
2. Put your phone in the trunk! Out of sight, out of mind…or at least out of reach. If you can’t get to it, it can’t distract you.
3. Put your kids on the case! I took the plunge and explained distracted driving to my 4-year-old son. I knew that once I told him, I’d hear about it…and I do. I’ve tested it out a few times by just reaching over for my phone, and my son is ON IT. “Mommy! Don’t look at your phone! Eyes on the road or the policeman will come!” This is pretty much of a no-fail plan because 4-year-olds don’t forget anything!
In an effort to increase awareness about the risks of distracted driving, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Auto Alliance have created the Decide to Drive program. This program aims to empower drivers and passengers to speak up about distracted driving, continue the conversation at home, work and play, and reduce distracted behaviors behind the wheel.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the nearly 33,000 roadway fatalities in 2012, there were 3,328 fatalities and approximately 421,000 injuries in distracted driving-related crashes. Those are not numbers to feel good about, and change needs to happen. Orthopaedic surgeons—the specialists who put bones and limbs back together after road crashes and traumas—along with our partners, the automakers, would rather help all drivers “decide to drive” each time they get in the car and to keep bones and limbs intact.
Decide to Drive includes all the tools you need to help raise awareness in your community, within your family, and online. From activity booklets and cell phone wallpaper reminders to social media kits and sharable infographics, you’ll find all the tools you need to get involved and help your friends and family keep their attention on the road and #DecidetoDrive.
The AAOS and the Auto Alliance urges all drivers to keep their most sophisticated safety features engaged at all times: eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Visit the Decide to Drive website to learn more about the campaign and how you can get involved.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.