HONOLULU – Gov. Neil Abercrombie today proclaimed the month of April “Distracted Driving Awareness Month” in Hawaii, thereby announcing a month-long distracted driving awareness campaign throughout the state. This is the first time that the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) is participating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month effort.
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity in which a person engages while operating a motor vehicle. Such activities have the potential to distract the person from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.
“As handheld electronic devices continue to become more prevalent, the temptation to use them while driving increases; we all have a stake in this growing problem and we are all part of the solution,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “Across the islands, the state is working together with county police departments to increase awareness of distracted driving laws that make our roads and highways safer. As drivers, we must focus our attention on driving; be good examples to children, peers and the entire community; and insist that when riding with others they do the same.”
In April, HDOT will launch a statewide media campaign to raise awareness about distracted driving. A distracted driving public service announcement (PSA) will air on television and in movie theatres. The TV PSA focuses on the distracted driving behavior of texting and asks viewers to “End distracted driving, before it ends you.” There will also be a radio PSA discouraging listeners from driving distracted, especially using a mobile device.
In addition to HDOT’s media campaign efforts, the county police departments will continue to enforce Hawaii’s existing county ordinances prohibiting the use of mobile electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle, which makes it illegal for drivers to text or engage in other hand-held uses of mobile electronic devices such as cell phones, mp3 players, personal digital assistants and navigation devices.
Drivers who use hand-held devices, such as cell phones, mp3 players, personal digital assistants, and navigation devices while driving are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves or others. In 2010, there were 3,092 people killed nationwide in crashes involving a distracted driver. Additionally, an estimated 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.
“We are focusing on changing the behaviors of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education – the same activities that have curbed impaired driving and increased seat belt use,” HDOT Director Glenn Okimoto said. “Our goal is to help drivers understand that texting, cell phone use, and other distractions behind the wheel can have dangerous consequences.”
During 2012, Hawaii’s county police departments issued 20,905 distracted driving citations statewide, which indicates that distracted driving is pervasive. According to the state Department of Health’s 2007-2012 Injuries in Hawaii report, “Inattentive/ Distracted Driver” was a contributing factor for 24, or 8 percent, of the 288 drivers involved in fatal traffic crashes from 2007-2010.
For media information, call Caroline Sluyter at (808) 587-2160 at the Hawaii Department of Transportation.