April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
April 1, 2013
Wisconsin DOT launches new TV and radio messages featuring the LG U.S. National Texting Champion
April has been designated by Congress as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is using this opportunity to urge drivers to pay attention to what’s really important when they’re behind the wheel.
"Despite laws to prevent distracted and inattentive driving, too many motorists talk and text on cell phones while driving. They eat a meal. They rummage for things on the seats, floor, dashboard or compartments. They even stare intently in the rearview mirror to comb their hair or apply make-up. Their attention is focused everywhere except where it should be, which is on the road," says State Patrol Major Sandra Huxtable, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety. "Because they’re not paying attention to traffic conditions and road hazards, distracted drivers drastically increase their risks of causing a crash or failing to avoid one."
Although many multi-tasking activities can cause distracted driving, talking and texting on cell phones have received significant public and legislative attention. In November 2012, a state law went into effect that prohibits drivers with an instruction permit or probationary license, which includes many teenagers, from "using a cellular or other wireless telephone except to report an emergency" while driving. A previously enacted state law made texting while driving illegal for all motorists.
To help motivate drivers to never text while driving, WisDOT has produced new Zero In Wisconsin TV, radio and online messages featuring high-school senior Austin Wierschke of Rhinelander, who is the two-time LG U.S. National Texting Champion.
The premise of the media messages is that Wierschke has amazing texting abilities even while he performs astonishing physical activities. But he also emphatically states, "I never text while driving," because it’s too dangerous. The messages will air statewide in April and also are available online along with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews at the Zero in Wisconsin web page.
Wierschke’s messages are designed to help prevent traffic crashes, which are the number one cause of death for teenagers nationwide. In a national Pew Research study, 40 percent of American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
Texting and cell phone use are just two of many types of distractions that increase the risk of a traffic crash. And a few seconds of inattention can have tragic consequences, according to Major Huxtable.
"Every time you drive, you are legally and morally responsible for safely operating a potentially destructive and even deadly force," she says. "That’s why driving requires your undivided attention. Any lapse in attention to traffic or road conditions is a grave danger to you, your passengers and everyone else on the road. No attempt to multi-task in your vehicle, no phone call, and no text message is more important than a human life."
For more information, contact:
State Patrol Major Sandra Huxtable, Wisconsin DOT
(608) 266-3048, firstname.lastname@example.org