The National Safety Council will recognize the 10th anniversary of Distracted Driving Awareness Month this October, kicking off the annual observance with the release of a report that details the science behind distraction and calls on key stakeholders to make life-saving changes. The report reinforces the evidence showing that hands-free is not risk free and in-vehicle systems may not be safer options – an inconvenient truth given that in the 10 years since Distracted Driving Awareness Month was established, 25 states have banned handheld cell phone use because of the belief that hands-free use by drivers is completely safe.
Joined this year by lead sponsor TRUCE Software, a company dedicated to decreasing workplace distraction and improving worker safety, NSC observes Distracted Driving Awareness Month annually to help make our roadways and our people safer. It is usually observed in April but was moved to October because of COVID-19, which has had a troubling impact on traffic safety.
Preliminary data indicates roads were deadlier for the first six months of the year, despite less traffic because of quarantines. While causation is not yet known, reckless behaviors such as speeding, lack of seatbelts and distracted driving all play a major role in risky roadway behavior. The new report, Understanding Driver Distraction, recommends eliminating use of cell phones and interactive, in-vehicle technology while driving in order to help keep all drivers safe on the road.
“The research is clear – we can save lives and prevent injuries if we drive attentively and avoid distraction,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “This October, I encourage all motorists to commit to driving attentively, particularly avoiding cell phone and in-vehicle technology that takes your hands, eyes or mind off the task of driving. Let’s all work together to keep our roads safe and just drive.”
As noted in the report, a multi-faceted approach is necessary to change driver behavior when it comes to distracted driving, including stronger laws and better enforcement. As such, primary enforcement handheld bans are a step in the right direction. However, the report emphasizes that hands-free devices and voice-command systems still create cognitive distractions for drivers. That’s why it’s important for drivers to program navigation devices and music before the drive begins and avoid interacting with these or other apps until the car is safely parked.
The Understanding Driver Distraction report goes on to further highlight that in-vehicle infotainment systems are adding to distracted driving concerns, as these systems can divert driver attention away from the road. The report notes that just because a technology is installed in a vehicle does not mean it is safe to use while driving.
The report calls for strong actions from employers, legislators, drivers, and vehicle and smartphone manufacturers. Among the recommendations:
- For drivers, not interacting with cell phones, apps or in-vehicle technology unless safely parked
- For legislators, passing laws prohibiting all device use while driving
- For manufacturers, designing in-vehicle technology that prevents inherently distracting activities
- For employers, enacting distracted driving policies that ban all employee use of cell phone or mobile devices while they are driving on or off the job, including use of hands-free and voice command systems. (Learn more by accessing the National Safety Council Safe Driving Employer Toolkit.)
In addition, the National Safety Council provides free Distracted Driving Awareness Month materials – including posters, videos, safety talks and more – at nsc.org/justdrive. Individuals also are encouraged to:
- Commit to driving distraction free by taking the NSC Just Drive pledge. Thanks to a partnership with The Zebra, the nation’s leading insurance comparison site, every pledge will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $5,000, today through Nov. 6 to support the NSC mission.
- Register for a free NSC member-exclusive webinar on Thursday, Oct. 22, that will provide key distracted driving takeaways from the past decade.