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Person driving car while texting with a the cell phone on the steering wheel.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) designates April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Across the country, this campaign works to keep America’s roads safe by reminding drivers to stay focused when behind the wheel.

At any given moment in the United States, more than 600,000 drivers are using cell phones or electronic devices while behind the wheel; additionally, more than half of all fatal car crashes involve cell phone distractions. In Massachusetts, the Safe Driving Law restricts sending, typing, or reading messages on handheld devices while driving. This law also bans any use of handheld electronics by drivers younger than 18.

It is important to understand that distracted driving is more than just texting while driving. Distraction occurs any time you take your eyes off the road (visual distraction), your hands off the wheel (physical distraction), or your mind off the main task at hand (cognitive distraction). Some examples of other distracted driving behaviors include: putting on makeup, eating, and fiddling with the radio dial. Driving without adequate amounts of sleep is another common problem that leads to unfocused driving.

Given that nearly half of all U.S. high school students aged 16 or older text or email while driving, getting teens involved in distracted driving prevention is important. This teen action toolkit provides guidance for engaging younger citizens in conversations about the dangers of distracted driving. Working with organizations that aim to eliminate reckless driving decisions and encouraging our youth to gather more information on the issue and form their own groups to discuss this topic are great ways to start making a positive change. Teens can also participate by signing the pledge to drive cell free.

The best way to prevent distracted driving is to educate drivers about its dangers. Show your concern by sharing your personal stories as well as the stories of others directly affected by this destructive activity with friends and family. There are many useful ways to manage distractions, including a few smartphone apps designed to prevent distracted behavior while on the road.

No matter what route you follow to stay focused when driving, what’s important is that you actively work to make a difference.

Let us know what you’ll be doing to curb distractions when behind the wheel. Comment below or tweet us, @MassGov.

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