The state governors safety group points to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in 2008 — the most recent year for which data is available — 5,870 people lost their lives and another 515,000 were injured in police-reported crashes in which one form of distraction was noted on the crash report.
Drivers engage in a range of distracting activities, according to the safety group, which offers the following tips for managing some of the most common distractions:
• Turn cell phones off or switch to silent mode before you get in the vehicle.
• Set up a special message to tell callers that you are driving and you’ll get back to them as soon as possible, or sign up for a service that offers this.
• Pull over to a safe area if you need to make a call or, if possible, ask a co-driver or passenger to make the call for you.
• Don’t ever text, surf the web or read your email while driving. Texting while driving is not only dangerous, it’s against the law in most states.
• Familiarize yourself with state and local laws. Some states and localities prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones. GHSA offers a handy chart of state laws on its website: http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.
• Review maps and directions before you start to drive. If you need help when you are on the road, ask a co-driver or passenger to help or pull over to a safe location to review the map/directions again.
• Secure your pets. Pets can be a big distraction in the vehicle. Always secure your pets properly before you start to drive.
• Focus on driving and driving alone. Refrain from smoking, eating, drinking, reading and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes off the road.