'Be the FOCUSED Driver': Campaign aims to stop distracted driving

Last updated: 04-13-2021

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'Be the FOCUSED Driver': Campaign aims to stop distracted driving

April marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and state and travel officials want you to travel safely.Each year, distracted driving contributes to more than 26,000 injuries and 180 fatalities on Maryland roads, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation.The Motor Vehicle Administration's Highway Safety Office and AAA Mid-Atlantic are working with state and local law enforcement to encourage motorists to drive safely with a campaign called "Be the FOCUSED Driver.""We know distracted driving is one of the main contributing factors of crashes in Maryland and it's completely avoidable," MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer said in a statement. "It is critical that drivers give their full attention while behind the wheel to protect themselves and others on the road. The text or phone call can wait."While cellphone use is a leading cause of distracted driving, there are other interruptions that can be just as harmful, or even deadly, such as eating, applying makeup, changing the radio station or tending to other passengers, officials said."Driving is an awesome responsibility, one that requires us to remain alert to protect ourselves, our passengers and others on the road, including motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians," Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater said in a statement. "As a community, we all share the responsibility to not be a distracted driver, but to be a focused driver."According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index, 96% of drivers believe typing or reading on a handheld cellphone while driving to be very or extremely dangerous -- yet 39% admit to reading and 29% admit to typing on a smartphone at least once while behind the wheel within the last month."This research consistently reveals a telling, yet conflicting, mentality," AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Ragina Ali said in a statement. "This is the behavior we want to change, through campaigns such as AAA's Don’t Drive Intexticated campaign and partnerships with traffic safety advocates, such as those with the MDOT MVA Highway Safety Office. While changing our own behaviors, we can all play a role in saving lives on our roads and eliminating distracted driving."In Maryland, fines for using a handheld cellphone while driving are $83 for the first offense, $140 for a second offense and $160 for a third offense.Writing, sending or reading a text or electronic message while driving can result in a $70 fine and one point on the driver's record.The penalties increase if the use of a device contributes to a crash, serious injury or death.The MVA and AAA want Marylanders to remember the following tips:Serve as an example for your family and friends by avoiding distractions while driving.Pull away from travel lanes and park in a safe location if you need to send a text message -- never stop on the side of a highway.Designate a passenger to respond to any messages while you are behind the wheel.Keep our police and other emergency responders safe. Move over if safe to do so or slow down when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle using visual signals.Save social media for later. Do not use your phone to scroll or engage in social media while driving.Place your cellphone in the trunk, glove box or back seat if you are tempted to use it when driving.Speak up. If your friends or family use their cellphones while driving, ask them to stop.More: Zero Deaths Maryland campaign

April marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and state and travel officials want you to travel safely.

Each year, distracted driving contributes to more than 26,000 injuries and 180 fatalities on Maryland roads, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The Motor Vehicle Administration's Highway Safety Office and AAA Mid-Atlantic are working with state and local law enforcement to encourage motorists to drive safely with a campaign called "Be the FOCUSED Driver."

"We know distracted driving is one of the main contributing factors of crashes in Maryland and it's completely avoidable," MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer said in a statement. "It is critical that drivers give their full attention while behind the wheel to protect themselves and others on the road. The text or phone call can wait."

While cellphone use is a leading cause of distracted driving, there are other interruptions that can be just as harmful, or even deadly, such as eating, applying makeup, changing the radio station or tending to other passengers, officials said.

"Driving is an awesome responsibility, one that requires us to remain alert to protect ourselves, our passengers and others on the road, including motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians," Maryland Transportation Secretary Greg Slater said in a statement. "As a community, we all share the responsibility to not be a distracted driver, but to be a focused driver."

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index, 96% of drivers believe typing or reading on a handheld cellphone while driving to be very or extremely dangerous -- yet 39% admit to reading and 29% admit to typing on a smartphone at least once while behind the wheel within the last month.

"This research consistently reveals a telling, yet conflicting, mentality," AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Ragina Ali said in a statement. "This is the behavior we want to change, through campaigns such as AAA's Don’t Drive Intexticated campaign and partnerships with traffic safety advocates, such as those with the MDOT MVA Highway Safety Office. While changing our own behaviors, we can all play a role in saving lives on our roads and eliminating distracted driving."

In Maryland, fines for using a handheld cellphone while driving are $83 for the first offense, $140 for a second offense and $160 for a third offense.

Writing, sending or reading a text or electronic message while driving can result in a $70 fine and one point on the driver's record.

The penalties increase if the use of a device contributes to a crash, serious injury or death.

The MVA and AAA want Marylanders to remember the following tips:

More: Zero Deaths Maryland campaign


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