Morgan Hill Police and other law enforcement agencies in South County, and beyond, are participating in a national campaign to remind drivers about the dangers of texting and distracted driving.
The efforts are part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” high visibility enforcement effort, according to a press release from the Morgan Hill Police Department. MHPD will participate in the campaign April 8-12.
According to NHTSA, between 2012 and 2019, more than 26,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver, says the press release. While fatalities from motor vehicle crashes decreased slightly from 2018, distraction-related fatalities increased by 10%.
NHTSA also reported that the number of deaths linked to driver distraction was 3,142 nationwide, or almost 9% of all fatalities in 2019. This represents a 10% increase over the year 2018, or 284 more fatalities. The distraction figure was the largest increase in causes of traffic deaths reported for 2019, according to police.
Millennials and members of Gen Z are the most distracted drivers, often using their cell phones to talk, text and scroll through social media while behind the wheel, authorities said. According to NHTSA research from 2017, young drivers 16 to 24 years old have been observed using handheld electronic devices while at the wheel at higher rates than older drivers since 2007. In 2019, 9% of people killed in teen (age 15-19) driving crashes died when the teen drivers were distracted at the time of the crash.
Violations of the state’s distracted driving laws can be costly, MHPD noted in the April 5 press release. In a 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index, the AAA Foundation reported that while nearly 96% of drivers thought it was “very or extremely dangerous” to read a text or email while driving, four out of 10 motorists admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days anyway.
MHPD and NHTSA offered the following tips and guidance to avoid texting while driving or distracted driving:
• If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
• Ask your passenger to be your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
• Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
• Cell phone use is habit forming. Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your phone in the trunk, glove box or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your destination.For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov/campaign/distracted-driving.