April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
The Hawai’i Department of Transportation, along with the Hawai’i Police Department and other county departments, are working with Toyota Hawai’i to reduce the levels of distracted driving through education.
HDOT says a combination of increased enforcement of distracted driving laws and public education have been effective in reducing distracted driving, and ultimately, saving lives.
Throughout the state, presentations will be made at schools, shopping centers, and through various community events. Oahu, Maui, and Kauai residents will even have a simulator system for use at several presentations to show students how dangerous it would be to operate a vehicle while being distracted.
“Driving requires one’s full attention, and any distraction can lead to dangerous and possibly deadly implications,” said Ford Fuchigami, HDOT Director. “The goal of this campaign is to change driver behavior, and that change begins with education. We hope that once people see the statistics, they will evaluate and alter their driving habits to help protect themselves and others on the road.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that there are about 660,000 drivers using their cell phones or electronic devices while driving at any given daylight moment in the United States.
According to the administration, the number has been steady since 2010.
In 2013, there were 3,179 deaths and 431,000 injuries in vehicles across the country that involved distracted driving.
Ten percent of the drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as being distracted.
“We hope that by experiencing the dangers of distracted driving in a safe, controlled environment, people will think twice about doing it in real life and possibly making a fatal mistake,” said Fuchigami. “You may get a second chance in the simulator exercise, but sadly, that is not the case in real life.”
Hawai’i’s law prohibits the use of mobile electronic devices while operating a vehicle. This includes texting or engaging 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. In addition, no one under the age of 18 is allowed to use a hands-free mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle.
Fines for violating the law start at $257.
Last year, county police departments issued over a combined total of 14,000 distracted driving citations statewide.
“Every roadway user has a role in this effort to put an end to distracted driving,” Fuchigami stressed. “Although many actions are distractions while driving, texting is by far the most dangerous because it combines all three types of distractions – visual by taking your eyes off the road, manual by taking your hands off the wheel, and cognitive by taking your mind off the task of driving. We recommend that you turn off your phone or mobile electronic device and put it away in the trunk or glove compartment. No text message is worth risking your life or someone else’s life over.”