April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month—a perfect time to remind all drivers to put safety first, put down their devices, and focus on driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed nearly 3,500 lives and injured approximately 391,000 people across the country in 2015. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.
In Minnesota, law enforcement agencies will be working to reduce distracted driving through extra enforcement patrols, beginning today and running through April 23. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, attention or distraction is the behavior cited most frequently by law enforcement agencies as a contributing factor to Minnesota crashes.
At the University of Minnesota, researchers in the HumanFIRST Lab have conducted many projects aimed at reducing distracted driving. For example, to help reduce distracted driving and other risky behaviors among teen drivers, researchers developed the Teen Driver Support System (TDSS). This smartphone-based system provides real-time, in-vehicle feedback to teens about their risky behaviors—and reports those behaviors to parents if teens don’t heed the system’s warnings. TDSS also blocks teens’ ability to text or make phone calls (except for 911) while driving.
CTS is also focused on educating kids about the dangers of distracted driving before they get behind the wheel. Our National Summer Transportation Institute, open to students entering grades 7-9, is one example of such an effort. Last year, students experienced the dangers of distraction by getting behind the wheel of pedal carts in a lesson that demonstrated how distractions and multitasking impair essential concentration while driving.