The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has deemed April to be National Distracted Driving Month, and new information may help efforts to target drivers most likely to be driving while distracted. Most experts agree that better driver education is one of the most important ways to decrease dangerous habits and behaviors behind the wheel.
The phrase ‘distracted driving’ itself is one example of awareness efforts–putting a name to a variety of behaviors that reduce a driver’s ability to stay aware of his or her surroundings and drive responsibly. Eating, personal grooming, reading a map, adjusting dials, using a cell phone or other electronic device can all create distractions for a driver and lead to a crash. With such a wide variety of distractions, matching the message to the right audience could be a challenge. New efforts by both researchers and government groups to understand driver distractions may help make safety campaigns more effective.
According to the most recent statistics released by the government and research groups, teen drivers are the age group most likely to be involved in a deadly crash as the result of distracted driving. Experts say 16 percent of all fatal crashes among teen drivers involve a distracted driver. Many of the materials prepared by the DOT for the April campaigns are designed to be used in schools and speak directly to teen drivers. Additionally, distraction.gov, the official distracted driving website maintained by the DOT, has resources for teens, parents and educators.
However, teen drivers aren’t the only ones putting themselves and others at risk. New information shows that distracted drivers between the ages of 30 and 39 are the most likely to be involved in fatal crashes while using a cell phone. According to a study by the University of Utah, cell phone use impairs a driver as much as a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent. Another study linked cell phone usage with a 37 percent drop in brain activity in areas associated with driving. But reaching drivers in their thirties can pose challenges.
Research by consumer information groups shows that young adults and teens are often harder to reach with traditional methods of advertising, like television and print ads. Often, these age groups are far more involved with digital media and online content. Efforts this April will show how the government thinks it can best reach vulnerable drivers–and how they can best reduce the amount of deadly crashes and injuries caused by distracted driving.