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How you can avoid distracted driving and save a life

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Authorities are asking you to put your phone down and keep your eyes on the road
Authorities are asking you to put your phone down and keep your eyes on the road

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. – April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Virginia State Police want to remind drivers using your cell phone is a popular example of distracted driving, but it’s not the only one.

Distracted driving can vary from adjusting the AC, heat or radio, looking for something or putting on makeup while you’re driving--anything that takes your attention from the road.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving crashes killed more than 3,142 people in the U.S. in 2019; that’s nine deaths a day.

In Virginia, distracted driving crash deaths made up 15% of all deaths on roads in 2019.

There is work being done to lower that number. At the start of 2021, driving with a cell phone in your hand became illegal in Virginia and can result in a $125 fine.

Sgt. Richard Garletts, a public information officer for VSP said he knows a law isn’t going to make everyone change their habits, but it is a start.

“Not everyone is going to stop. The goal is to make them aware that you think you’re invincible but you’re not and these little things that you do while you’re driving down the road make a difference in how you operate a vehicle,” said Sgt. Garletts.

Teens aren’t excluded from distracted driving.

According to Virginia DMV Highway Safety Office, in 2020 distracted driving was in the top four factors that caused deadly crashes with a teen driver. To get more specific, it was the cause of 12% of deadly crashes with a teen driver.

Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety (YOVASO) is a peer-to-peer advocacy program to prevent these types of crashes.

Earlier this month, YOVASO launched its Arrive Alive campaign that focuses on not using a cell phone while driving, buckling up and driving the speed limit. Arrive Alive goes until August.

One aspect of the campaign is Arrive Alive kits. Each kit has information and souvenir items so when kids see the message or logo it reminds them to make better decisions behind the wheel.

Most of the information kids and teens can get from police, but hearing about some of the bad things that can happen on the road resonates better when it comes from a friend or classmate.

“It’s (YOVOSO and the work it does) significant because it’s not like talking down. If you have someone your age telling these things that can happen you’re more susceptible to understanding and listening,” said Payton Poindexter, youth advisory council member for YOVOSO at her school.

Poindexter attends Jefferson Forest High School in Bedford County. Her group is asking peers to sign a pledge to be a responsible driver.

To save lives AAA has a few tips to limit distracted driving:

  • Put your phone away
  • Know where you’re going and if you don’t have your GPS ready before you start driving
  • Pullover
  • Ask your passenger for help
  • Don’t be a distraction by texting or calling someone if you know they’re driving
  • Use Do Not Disturb
  • Even if you’re not the driver avoid danger by paying attention and not texting or playing games while walking or cycling

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.