Florida Department of Highway Safety Urges Motorists to Focus on Driving

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

SEBASTIAN – The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) is urging motorists to eliminate distractions while driving to reduce distracted driving crashes statewide.

The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), a division of the DHSMV, is partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association and AAA – The Auto Club Group to promote April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“When a driver gets behind the wheel of a car they should focus solely on driving,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes.

“Distractions significantly lower a driver’s reaction time to effectively avoid a crash. Always keep your eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and mind on driving to Arrive Alive,” Rhodes added.

Preliminarily, in 2017, there were almost 50,000 crashes involving distracted driving in Florida. That means, on average in 2017, there were 958 distracted driving crashes per week.

Distracted driving crashes have increased 25 percent since 2013. Last year, these distracted driving crashes accounted for more than 3,000 serious bodily injuries and 200 fatalities.

“Distracted driving is extremely risky behavior that not only puts drivers and passengers in danger, but others out on the road as well,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol.

“Focused attention on driving increases your reaction time to dangerous driving situations, helps to prevent crashes and saves lives,” Colonel Spaulding added.

There are different types of driver distractions, including: visual (taking eyes off the road), manual (taking hands off the wheel) and cognitive (mind not on driving). Texting is one of the most dangerous driver distractions since it involves visual, manual and cognitive distractions.

However, texting is not the only distracted driving behavior; other dangerous driving distractions include putting on makeup, tending to children in the backseat, eating, tuning the radio, checking GPS navigation and even daydreaming.

April had the third highest number of distracted driving crashes in 2017, followed by March and October, respectively.

Preliminarily, in 2017, drivers age 20-24 were responsible for the highest number of distracted driving crashes, followed closely by 25-29 year-olds and 15-19 year-olds.

Distracted driving crashes involving electronic devices accounted for nine percent of distracted driving crashes for 20-29 year-olds and were highest of any age group.

“No matter the age or number of years behind the wheel, no driver is immune to the devastating effects of distracted driving,” said Amy Mercer, Executive Director of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, FPCA.

“Distracted driving is one hundred percent preventable, but too many choose not to focus on the road ahead. Today, I urge drivers across the state to put safety first and help protect Florida’s roads from danger,” Mercer added.

“Texting while driving, along with other distractions, has resulted in tragic heartache for far too many families we proudly serve,” said Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association. “To bring attention to this issue, the Florida Sheriff’s Association fully supports the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Focus on Driving campaign during the month of April.”

The DHSMV is also partnering with AAA – The Auto Club Group to educate motorists on the critical role of passengers and how important it is to Be a Good Passenger. “Sadly, we know that thousands of drivers are distracted behind the wheel every day,” said Matt Nasworthy, Florida Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto
Group. Traffic Safety Advocacy for AAA – The Auto Group. “We implore all motorists to put safety first by focusing their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel and minds on the task of driving.”

Visit DHSMV’s website for more information and resources for the Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign. The public is encouraged to report dangerous and drunk drivers by dialing *FHP (*347) or 911.

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About Andy Hodges
Andy Hodges was born in Annapolis, Maryland, and raised in Jupiter, Florida. He has been a radio and TV personality since the mid-1980s. In broadcasting, he has worked for WFLX-TV, WIRK, WLIZ, WIXI, WKSY, WRMF, and others. Andy has also worked as a computer engineer and a senior systems analyst for a variety of top companies. He has lived in Sebastian since 2002, and joined Sebastian Daily as our editor in chief in 2016. Andy’s family has lived in Sebastian for over 45 years.