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OUR VIEW: Turn attention from driving distractions

From star athletes announcing fake retirements to various media outlets sharing downright unbelievable, fake news stories, as the month of March comes to an end, people too often fall victim to April Fools Day pranks.

But as the calendar turns, with it comes National Distracted Driving Awareness Month that highlights an issue that is no joke.

Over the month of April, organizations such as AAA work to educate the public on the risks of distracted driving and teach how to minimize those distractions.

Many people don’t realize that taking your eyes off the road for even two seconds can turn deadly for you or someone else.

“Distracted drivers kill thousands of people every year,” AAA spokeswoman Montrae Waiters said in a recent news release. “If you’re not focused on driving, you’re endangering the lives of everyone on the road. Please put the phone down and eliminate any other distractions when you get behind the wheel.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

• 400,000 people are injured in distraction-related crashes every year.

• 3,138 people were killed nationwide (2020).

• 55 distracted driving crashes resulted in 61 fatalities in Georgia (2020).

• The true numbers are likely much higher due to underreporting.

According to NHTSA, nearly one in five distracted driving deaths were non-motorists. 

Distractions come in many different forms, including eating, drinking, personal grooming, adjusting the radio, using a cell phone, text messaging and other passengers, among others.

So what can drivers do to prevent distracted driving? Here are a few suggestions from AAA:

Put down the electronic devices. Don’t use cell phones while driving — handheld or hands-free – except in absolute emergencies. Never use text messaging, email functions, video games or the internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle, while driving. Drivers that use cell phones while behind the wheel are up to four times as likely to be involved in a crash. Further, research shows that hands-free cell phones offer no significant safety benefits over handheld phones. Hands-free is not risk free.

Make adjustments before you start rolling. Address vehicle systems like your GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time.

Ask your passengers for help if you need something, so you can stay focused on the road.

And if nothing else, pull over, stop the vehicle and get whatever distractions facing you handled before getting back out on the road.

Don’t be an April fool. Don’t drive distracted.

Our View on the Issue is an opinion of The Covington News editorial board, which includes Editor and Publisher Taylor Beck and News Editor Tom Spigolon.