April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Throughout the month, the City of Huntsville and Huntsville Police Department have been encouraging residents to keep their eyes on the road.
Nine people in the United States are killed every day in crashes that reportedly involve a distracted driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The agency breaks down the types of distractions into three categories:
- Visual: Always be sure to keep your eyes on the road. Never get distracted by your cell phone or try to read directions without pulling over.
- Manual: Keep both hands on the wheel at all times! Remember that eating and driving can be just as dangerous as texting and driving.
- Cognitive: Stay focused on the task at hand. Keep your mind alert and put your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode to avoid distractions.
A personal story
The issue hits close to home for Huntsville City Council Member David Little, who was seriously injured in a distracted driving-related accident with his family in 2008.
Little, who represents the City’s District 2, said the accident happened after a young man texted his father to let him know he was coming home. With his eyes momentarily off the road, the man swerved into another lane, striking Little’s vehicle head-on at 55 miles per hour.
“I was pinned between the dashboard and my seat … as the adrenaline wore off, I realized I was hurt and they needed the jaws of life to get me out,” Little explained. “My wife and kids were able to get out. They were fine.”
The accident inspired Little to be an advocate for those affected by distracted driving.
“Over the last 12 years, I’ve met a lot of families, parents and siblings of people who’ve lost loved ones,” he said. “I feel like I’m in the minority of people who survive these types of wrecks.”
How you can help
Little’s story isn’t rare. It’s part of a disastrous epidemic that plagues drivers across the nation. But it’s one that can be solved.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers plenty of tips to prevent distracted driving:
- Pull over and park your car in a safe location if you need to send a text, scroll on your phone or make a call.
- Designate a friend or passenger to do your texting and calling for you.
- Put your phone in your trunk, glove box or backseat if you’re struggling with scrolling through apps while driving.
“Distracted driving is one of the causes of traffic accidents each day, and it’s a concern for our officers,” HPD Chief Kirk Giles said. “No text, email or selfie is more important than the lives of those we share the road with. If it can’t wait, safely pull into a parking lot to respond.”