The number of deaths caused by distracted driving has skyrocketed in recent years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2015 alone there were 391,000 injuries and 3,477 fatalities attributed to drivers who engaged in activities that impaired their attention long enough for tragedy to strike.
Distracted driving can take several forms, including:
- Using a mobile device to talk, text, or email
- Adjusting the radio to a different station
- Applying makeup
- Talking to passengers
Concerned about the dangerous impact of distracted driving, the Maine Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Highway Safety collaborated with other New England states last April to launch the first coordinated regional awareness campaign.
Just Drive New England
Just Drive New England, which ran for the entire month of April as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, emphasized the importance of paying attention behind the wheel. Campaign highlights included a television ad featuring law enforcement personnel from each participating state talking about the often-fatal aftermath of driver inattention.
The Maine Transportation Safety Commission and the Maine Department of Transportation released figures to illustrate the impact of distracted driving throughout the state. The more alarming numbers included:
- Since 2003, distracted driving has caused over 20,000 crashes in Maine
- 191 of the 3,395 distracted driving collisions in 2016 resulted in fatalities.
- In 2016, in-vehicle distractions like putting on makeup and eating and drinking accounted for 1,290 accidents.
- 1,373 of the distracted driving accidents in 2016 were attributable to exterior distractions such as buildings, people, natural elements, and even other traffic accidents.
According to Lauren Stewart, director of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, drivers in New England travel from one state to another at a higher rate of frequency than drivers in other regions of the U.S. Just Drive New England offered an opportunity for these states to work together to solve a problem. It also presented a chance to reduce the number of people hurt or killed by distracted drivers.
After the campaign officially ended, the Lewiston Sun-Journal published a letter from Dr. Michael Rifkin titled ‘Make distracted driving in Maine taboo.’ Dr. Rifkin, who was struck by a texting driver over two years ago and forced to endure a long and painful rehabilitation, urged that the goal of Just Drive New England not be abandoned simply because the month was over.
Using Greek mythology to illustrate his point, he explained that sailors once sealed their ears with beeswax to prevent the siren songs from causing them to wreck their ships. “(Today) we have the tools, capacity, and technology to seal off the distractions in our vehicles and prevent traffic deaths (in Maine),” he wrote.
Tips for National Safety Month
June has passed but distracted driving will be a focal point in safety awareness campaigns every coming June . National Safety Month is an annual initiative dedicated to preventing injury and death on the roads, in the workplace, and even in our homes.
Each week targets a specific risk or goal, starting with emergency preparedness during week one and ending with road safety during week four. The ‘driving week’ will cover critical issues like impaired and distracted driving.
The Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Highway Safety offered the following tips for drivers:
- Turn off your phone and put it somewhere inaccessible (e.g., the back seat) before you start driving.
- Advise your friends and family that you won’t be answering their calls or texts while you are on the road.
- If you must make a call or send a text, pull over and park in a safe place first.
- Review maps or start the GPS navigation before you start driving.
- Keep an eye out for cyclists and pedestrians, particularly at night and during times of poor visibility.
- Always wear a seatbelt to reduce the risk of injury in a collision with a distracted driver.
What’s the Bottom Line?
If you or someone close to you are seriously injured by a distracted driver, contact Fales & Fales, P.A. for a case review. We are strong and experienced advocates for car accident victims in Lewiston-Auburn and beyond. We will use our experience and resources to obtain justice for you. We’re here when and where you need us, so please call 1-888-526-9408 today.