April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. On March 28-30, Florida Highway Patrol hosted the “Staying Alive on I-75” campaign that focused on distracted driving. No fatalities occurred on Interstate 75 during the weekend.
The campaign ran through six states, including Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky.
In 2013, nearly 39,000 crashes in Florida were a result of distracted driving. Of these crashes, 33,000 involved injuries and 201 fatalities were reported, according to a press release from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Distracted driving includes: texting, using a cell phone, eating and drinking, and talking to passengers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Sgt. Tracy Hisler-Pace, a troop B spokeswoman, said the campaign included putting more state troopers on the road who were focused on searching for distracted driving.
Pace, a self-described optimist, said she believes police making people aware of their driving habits will help them make improvements.
Sgt. Dylan Bryan, the troop G spokesman, said even though his unit does not cover I-75, they used the campaign to enforce safety on I-95. He said it was also helpful to make people aware of various distractions.
“We want to educate people and promote safety; that’s what our officers are out there for,” Bryan said.
Julie Jones, the executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, said in a press release, “Anything we can do to drive home the message that distracted driving is dangerous and often deadly is making our highways safer.”
Bryan said texting is the most common distracted driving behavior.
“I call it the triple threat,” Bryan said. “It limits your manual attention, physically taking your hands off of the wheel; your visual attention, taking your eyes of the road; and cognitive attention, [thinking] about what text you’re going to send.”
Bryan said people tell him that is why they use acronyms, such as “IDK” and “LOL” to limit the effects of the distraction. Bryan said while these abbreviations shorten the time a driver’s hands may be off the wheel, cognitive attention is still focused on the text.
The U.S. Department of Transportation launched its first-ever national campaign on distracted driving in April.
Anthony Foxx, the secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation, said in a press release, “This campaign puts distracted driving on par with our efforts to fight drunk drinking or to encourage seatbelt use.”