April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Posted on Apr 6, 2021 in Highways News, Main, News

HONOLULU – Driving distracted is like driving while blindfolded. If your eyes are on your phone, then they’re not on the road. A lot of people may think that’s not a big deal for a quick text. However, in the time it takes you to read this sentence, you’d have traveled about the length of a football field if you were driving a car at 55 mph.

In an effort to save lives and reduce injuries on our roadways, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) and the four county police departments will join law enforcement nationwide in conducting stepped-up enforcement from April 8 through April 12, 2021, to remind drivers about the dangers and consequences of texting and driving distracted. This annual campaign is part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) U Drive. U Text. U Pay. high-visibility enforcement effort during Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Hawaii’s law prohibits the use of mobile electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle, making 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. The law also prohibits drivers from using a hand-held mobile electronic device when stopped at a red light or stop sign. Furthermore, no person under the age of 18 may use a hands-free mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. The fine for violating this law starts at $297. Violations in school zones or construction areas start at $347.

“According to Hawaii state data, 34.3 percent of Hawaii’s 108 traffic fatalities in 2019 involved distracted drivers; that is unacceptable,” HDOT Deputy Director of Highway Ed Sniffen said. “We are supporting NHTSA’s nationwide commitment to enforce cell phone and texting bans, and to reduce traffic crashes caused by distracted drivers. The ultimate goal of this effort is to protect us all from unnecessary injuries and deaths associated with using a cell phone while driving. These senseless crashes are preventable, and the focus should be on driving to ensure that everyone arrives alive.”

Distracted driving involves anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. This includes talking on your phone; eating and drinking; talking to people in your vehicle; and fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system; but texting is the most alarming distraction of all. Millennials and Gen Z are the most distracted drivers, often using their cell phones to talk, text and scroll through social media while behind the wheel.

When it comes to distracted driving, many drivers are guilty of a “double standard.” The AAA Foundation reported in its 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index. that while nearly 96 percent of drivers believed it was very or extremely dangerous to read a text or email while driving, four out of 10 drivers admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days.

HDOT and NHTSA want everyone to drive safely every trip and urge drivers to put their phones away when behind the wheel. If you need to text, pull over and turn off your engine to do so. If you are the driver, follow these steps for a safe driving experience:

  • If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
  • Ask your passenger to be your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
  • Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
  • Cell phone use is habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your destination.

Texting while driving is dangerous and illegal. No text or post is worth ruining someone’s day — or taking a life. Remember: U Drive. U Text. U Pay. For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov/campaign/distracted-driving.