Promoting Excellence in Maryland's Trauma Care

A collaborative statewide approach to address issues
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April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Have you ever seen someone texting and driving or maybe someone applying mascara while cruising down the street? These are both distracted driving behaviors. We all know these are not safe behaviors but have you ever done a self-evaluation to see what actions YOU might be participating in that are also distractions?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2019, 3,142 fatalities occurred because of distracted driving and an additional 424,000 injured. These injuries and deaths are preventable if drivers would stop engaging in distracted driving actions.

What constitutes driving distracted? Anything that takes your attention and eyes away from the road for more than 2 seconds.

What are some examples of distracted driving?

  • Texting and driving.
  • Talking on the phone.
  • Eating and drinking.
  • Changing the music or radio station.
  • Entering in an address into the navigation system.
  • Applying makeup.
  • Turning to look in the back of your vehicle – most of the time at a child or pet.
  • Reaching for something that fell on the floor.
  • Being too emotionally upset to focus while driving.
  • Allowing a pet to be unsecured in your vehicle.
  • Checking side and rear review mirrors.
  • Gawking at crash scenes.

What can be done to prevent distracted driving?

Put your cell phone on silent before you put the car in drive. If your phone is on silent, you will not be tempted to pick up the phone when it alerts of an incoming phone call or text message.

Eat before you start to drive away. Opening up sauce packets or digging through a fast food bag for your meal, are all distracting habits. If you want to have a drink in the car, or open the lid before you leave or use a straw.  

Set your music to a specific radio station or playlist before you put the car in drive. Music or an audiobook may be enjoyable during a long ride, but making adjustments during the drive, is not worth the safety risk.

A navigation system can be helpful but also is very distracting, especially if you are attempting to adjust it while driving. Set your navigation up before you head to your next stop.

If you are driving with kids, set the rules of the drive. Instruct kids that you will not be able to turn and look at them while you are driving. If you must tend to your child, pull the vehicle over to a safe spot and then assist them. 

If you have teens, set the example and expectation for them when they start to drive. Talk to them about how to handle friends who might drive distracted or want them to drive distracted. Have a plan in place with your teen if they are in a situation where they feel uncomfortable with the driver being distracted.

If you are feeling sad, or angry, take a walk. Do not get behind the wheel. Driving when you cannot fully focus on the road can lead to injury and death of yourself, loved ones, or innocent bystanders.

Secure your animals in crates or with pet seatbelts. While having your pet on your lap, looking out the window may, it is a distraction to your driving and may be fatal to your pet in the event of a crash.

As you can see distractions come in all forms. It requires a self-evaluation to ensure that you are not participating in any of them. These prevention measures may take a few extra minutes of your time but your life and others lives are saved by implementing them. Remember, a distraction may be only for a fraction of a second but can have life altering impacts.

Blog submitted by

Kelly Llewellyn

Injury Prevention/EMS Specialist

Meritus Health

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