Even a playful sign like this one can get a crucial message across to drivers.
Texting or talking on a cell phone behind the wheel can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. This month is the second annual Distracted Driving Awareness Month. To start the month off right, the traffic officials of San Mateo are joining the ranks of a large nationwide movement cracking down on the use of cellular devices behind the wheel.
A first-time offense of texting or talking on a phone while driving now costs a pretty penny in the Northern California community, with a minimum $159 fine. Subsequent tickets are $279. Police are unapologetic about their hard-hitting tactics in this effort to reduce distracted driving-related accidents. Chief of Police Susan Manheimer told The San Mateo Patch, “This campaign isn’t about avoiding a costly ticket; it’s about keeping yourself and the ones you care about alive.”
Distracted Driving Awareness Month is a national campaign that began last year to combat a fatal epidemic of unfocused drivers. US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is behind USDOT’s new website to that effect, which shares stories and facts about the consequences of distracted driving. The site’s fact sheet notes that drivers are twenty-three times more likely to crash if they text while driving. Distraction.gov also includes a powerful map of the United States with small dots dispersed amongst the states, titled “The Faces of Distracted Driving.” Hover over each icon, and you’ll find both tragic and inspiring videos detailing personal accounts of the often fatal repercussions of texting and talking on cell phones in the car. The website encourages visitors to know the facts, get involved, and participate in the Department of Transportation’s initiatives to combat distracted driving.
The Faces of Distracted Driving gives a personal edge to the campaign on www.distraction.gov.
With Awareness Month as a widespread effort, the campaign has been embraced by different states and organizations in a variety of ways. In Texas, the Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has implemented a series of “Text. Talk. Crash.” public service announcements that will air throughout the state during April. The Ad Council has partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to spearhead “Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks.”, another site with a mission for reform through education. Similar to www.distraction.gov, the online NHTSA campaign enforces its message with an attractive, clean site, focused on four memorable key tips:
1) Out of sight, out of mind.
2) Silence is golden.
3) Find your app.
4) Designate a texter.
The Distraction, TxDOT, and Ad Council campaigns use hip, easy-to-navigate interfaces and catchy slogans to promote their goals in the hope that their message will reach a key target audience: teens and other young drivers.
The under-25 demographic is the most likely to be involved in distracted driving-related accidents, many of which could easily be avoided by waiting to read a text or pick up a call. Phone service provider AT&T even has its own campaign in motion to reach younger audiences, titled “It Can Wait.” The company has produced a 10-minute documentary called “The Last Text,” which features testimonies from individuals whose lives have been negatively impacted by drivers texting at the wheel. The Last Text campaign makes a salient point with its core scenario, asking readers to look at the latest text message they received, and ask themselves if reading this message would ever be more important than avoiding a serious accident. Hopefully, the answer will always be a definitive “no.” It can be difficult to remember priorities in our constantly linked-in society, but remembering that traffic safety cannot be de-prioritized is crucial in working toward distracted driver-free roads.
Everyone is getting in on the movement, including Stonebridge Church.
SmartSign has its own program against texting and talking on phones while driving. On www.myparkingsign.com, visitors can choose two free preventative distracted driving signs with eye-catching graphics that are sure to provide that extra reminder that no text is worth a distracted driver.
- R. Sapon-White