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2022 'U Drive. U Text. U Pay.' campaign coming to Fort Smith in April

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says Millennials and Gen-Z are the most distracted drivers.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — The Fort Smith Police Department (FSPD) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the national 2022 U Drive. U Text. U Pay campaign. 

This campaign is a high-visibility enforcement effort that will be held from April 7-11. During this time period, law enforcement officers will work together to enforce texting and distracted driving laws are being followed to ensure safer roads for drivers. 

NHTSA says 26,004 people died in crashes involving distracted drivers between 2012 and 2019. Motor vehicle crashes have decreased since 2018, but distraction-related fatalities have increased by 10% according to NHTSA.

NHTSA also reported that in 2019, the number of nationwide deaths linked to driver distraction was 3,142. This makes up 9% of all fatalities for that year and a 10% increase over the year 2018.

The distraction figure was the largest increase in causes of traffic deaths reported for 2019.

NHTSA says Millennials and Gen-Z are the most distracted drivers as they often use their cellphones to talk, text and scroll through social media while driving. NHTSA research shows that in 2017, young drivers from age 16-to 24 have been seen using handheld electronic devices while driving at a higher rate than older drivers since 2007. NHTSA also reports that in 2019, 9% of people killed in teen (15-19) driving crashes died when the teen drivers were distracted at the time of the crash.  

“Distracted driving has become a leading cause of vehicle crashes on our nation’s roads, and much of this distraction is attributed to texting while driving,” said Fort Smith Police Captain Daniel Grubbs, Patrol Special Operations. “People know texting and driving is dangerous and often illegal, but they selfishly give themselves a personal exemption to do it anyway, and this behavior unfairly puts others at risk. Beginning April 7, if you text and drive, you will pay.”

NHTSA  says many drivers are guilty of a “double standard” when it comes to distracted driving. In its 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index, the AAA Foundation reported that nearly 96% of drivers believed it was very or extremely dangerous to read a text or email while driving. Four out of 10 of those drivers admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days.  

NHTSA  urges everyone to put their phones away while driving. They say if you need to text, pull over before doing so. 

The following safety tips are provided for a safe driving experience: 

  • If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
  • Ask your passenger to be your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
  • Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
  • Cell phone use is habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your destination.

Texting while driving is dangerous and illegal. For more information, click here.

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