Distracted driving is such a major topic these days. You hear the dangers talked about, campaigned against, ticketed for, and even brought to trial, but it wasn’t always that way. I got my driver’s license when I was 17 (2003) and already had a cell phone (Verizon LG VX8100 color flip phone, it was awesome). Back then distracted driving wasn’t really a thing yet, and if it was, no one was targeting me with the right messages. Want to know why? Here it goes . . . between the years 2004 and 2006 I was pulled over and ticketed five times for talking on my cell phone while driving. Yup. And knowing what I know now, that was just really hard to admit . . . but like I said, it wasn’t truly talked about yet. Of course it was illegal and “wrong,” but it was never amplified in high school like drinking and driving was, so it seemed secondary and not as big of a deal. You can rest assured; I finally learned my lesson and put the phone down while driving.
National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
If you hadn’t already heard, April 2015 is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. That alone speaks to the fact that we’ve made major progress in understanding and communicating the dangers since years past. It also speaks to the fact that it’s a MAJOR social issue.
At any given daylight moment across the U.S., approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or electronic devices while driving, and that number has held steady since 2010. Against all distractions, texting is the most dangerous, though. It not only distracts your mind, but also takes your eyes off the road and hands off the wheel. The average text takes 4.6 seconds, that’s the time it takes to drive the entire length of a football field going 55 mph and it’s three times more dangerous than driving drunk—which really surprised me at first.
Needless to say, distracted driving has become a deadly epidemic on our roadways: 3,154 people were killed in 2013 and an estimated 424,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted drivers. Teen drivers are most at risk, though. Ten percent of all distracted driving accidents involve drivers under the age of 20 and it’s now the number one killer of teenagers, which is so so unsettling.
The numbers frighten me every time I see them . . . but we’re making progress.
Yeah, You’re That Distracting
There are a remarkable number of national and local distracted driving campaigns flooding the U.S., but some amazing things are happening right here in Rochester, NY.
The Ad Council of Rochester has been working with key community leaders to address the issue of distracted driving in our region for 3 years now. We (Roberts) helped launch the “Yeah, You’re That Distracting” campaign in 2012 and strategized its unique approach aimed at targeting the person outside of the car vs. the driver themselves. The message is simple: If you’re talking or texting with someone while on the road, hold the conversation until a safer time. Otherwise, you could be the cause of an accident or worse. It puts the responsibility in the hands of the driver’s family and friends.
Creating Measurable Change in #ROC
The Ad Council recently reported that counter to national trends, the Greater Rochester region has seen a 20 percent decrease in distracted driving within the last two years.
In 2014, 2.4 percent of area drivers were visibly distracted, down from 3 percent in 2012, based on observational studies of more than 11,000 cars at intersections across our community. Also, two-thirds of the intersections initially surveyed in 2012 had reduced rates of distracted driving in 2014. It’s so crazy what a small coalition of individuals can do and the positive impact they helped create to keep each and every one of us safer on the roads.
The “Yeah, You’re That Distracting” campaign has been such a success in its early stages that it’s receiving the W.B. Potter Award at the Ad Council’s Annual Celebration and being recognized as a results-oriented initiative that fills a community need and serves as a role model for other partnerships. (GO ROC!)
Creating a Movement Takes More Than an Ad Campaign
This couldn’t be truer. Along with development of the campaign, partnerships were formed with 30 school districts in the Rochester region to reach the audience most at risk, teenagers. As part of the effort, schools are incorporating messages in morning announcements, school newspapers, and posters throughout schools. Some districts are even requiring students to take a distracted driving course as part of the health curriculum or before receiving a parking pass.
The Rochester Business Alliance (RBA) and local business also jumped on board to stress the dangers of distracted driving to Rochester employees and eventually to help impact HR policies.
What have you done to combat distracted driving? Or even more, what will you do? Whether it’s not texting/calling a friend during a time you know they’re typically driving or sharing information with co-workers, I’d love to hear about it.