In honor of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety (KOHS) and law enforcement agencies are asking drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel as part of the One Text or Call Could Wreck It All campaign.
“Distracted driving is a growing threat as too many drivers are ignoring their responsibilities behind the wheel,” said KOHS Executive Director Dr. Noelle Hunter. “By educating drivers on the consequences of distracted driving and following through with traffic enforcement, we are sending a clear message that we are serious about stopping this deadly behavior.”
While anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or mind off the task of driving is a hazard, the risk of texting while driving causes heightened concern because it combines all three types of distraction – visual, manual and cognitive.
“Texting and driving is illegal and irresponsible, but unfortunately, we see it on a regular basis,” said Kentucky State Police Sgt. Josh Lawson. “Drivers must know that if you are caught texting behind the wheel, you will be stopped and fined.”
Violating Kentucky’s texting law, which took effect April 15, 2010, can be costly. Violators are liable for fines of $25 on a first offense and $50 on each subsequent offense, plus court costs.
The law bans texting for drivers of all ages while the vehicle is in motion. For drivers over 18, the law allows the use of global positioning devices and reading and selecting or entering a telephone number or name for the purpose of making a phone call. Texting is allowed only to report illegal activity or to request medical or emergency aid.
For drivers under 18, no use of personal communication devices, such as cell phones and pagers, is allowed while the vehicle is in motion. The use of a global positioning system is allowed, but manually entering information must be completed while the vehicle is stopped.
“We also want drivers to realize that a fine is not the only consequence of distracted driving,” said Hunter. “In fact, our campaign hits close to home.”
A radio spot was recorded by Transportation Cabinet employee Nancy Wood, the public information officer in the District 6 office in Covington. Nancy’s daughter, Brianna, was severely injured when her vehicle was hit by a distracted driver in 2011.
“It’s been a long journey with multiple surgeries and hospital stays, but Brianna is lucky because she survived,” said Wood. “I hope my story will help prevent other parents from receiving the type of call we all dread – that our child has been involved in a crash.”
In Kentucky, there were more than 57,000 crashes last year, resulting in 14,600 injuries and 147 fatalities due to distracted driving.
According to a 2014 report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of a crash or near-crash among novice drivers increased with the performance of many secondary tasks, including texting and dialing cell phones.
An analysis by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety of 2009-2012 data found that while more than 80 percent of drivers believed it was completely unacceptable for a motorist to text behind the wheel, more than a third of those same drivers admitted to reading text messages while operating a passenger motor vehicle themselves.
“It’s not about writing tickets,” said Sgt. Lawson. “It’s about saving lives.”
For more information, please visit www.distraction.gov.