April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month


Over a five-year period in Oregon, 18 people died in crashes involving a driver using a cell phone. Think how you would you feel if you had been that driver – the one picking up your phone or responding to a text, then crashing and killing someone. It makes you pause to consider the pain and suffering involved in such a tragedy: a preventable tragedy.

Distracted driving, including being distracted by a phone, contributed to the deaths of 137 people total in Oregon from 2014 – 2018.


Distraction is a specific type of inattention that occurs when drivers divert their attention from the driving task to focus on some other activity instead, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “When you’re behind the wheel, there is nothing more important than paying attention,” said Kelly Kapri, Distracted Driving Program manager for ODOT. “If you let something distract you, you could end up in a serious or deadly crash. And it might not be others hurt or killed – it could be you.”


In Oregon, it is illegal to use a handheld mobile electronic device while driving. A first offense without a crash can earn up to a $1,000 fine; later convictions can result in fines up to $2,500 and six months in jail. See the website to learn more about what happens when you violate the law. In support of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, law enforcement agencies across Oregon will operate high visibility enforcement activities throughout the month, funded by grants from ODOT’s Safety Division. In addition, on April 8, a distracted driving crackdown, “Connect 2 Disconnect,” will involve thousands of agencies nationwide, including Oregon. For a four-hour period, personnel will be out in force, helping to ensure drivers focus on safe driving.


What is distracted driving?

Distraction occurs when a driver voluntarily diverts attention to something not related to driving that uses the driver's eyes, ears, hands and mind. There are four types of driver distraction:

  • Visual – Looking at something other than the road.

  • Auditory – Hearing something not related to driving.

  • Manual – Manipulating something other than the wheel.

  • Cognitive – Thinking about something other than driving.

Most distractions involve more than one of these types, with both a sensory – eyes, ears, or touch – and a mental component, mind.




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