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Pay attention on the roads and save lives

We might be well into November, but that doesn’t mean the lessons shared during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month are any less important.

This year’s observance of the month, which is designed to draw attention to the dangers presented by distracted driving, was held in October instead of its traditional April slot because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National Safety Council. But when it comes to safety on the roadways, does a certain month really matter?

Heeding the danger of distracted driving is a message that is appropriate at any time of the year, especially when you consider that 2,841 people died in distracted-driving crashes in the United States in 2018, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That total includes 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians and 77 bicyclists.

Distracted driving, NHTSA says, is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to other people in the vehicle, adjusting radio controls or fiddling with the navigation system — it’s anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the task of safe driving.

Numbers from our region show that, despite all of the efforts at education, distracted driving remains an issue. The Ohio State Highway Patrol, for instance, reported that as of Monday, troopers had recorded 8,008 district driving violations this year, as compared with 7,392 during the same period in 2019. This year’s totals include 62 in Columbiana County.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in 2019 there were 13,729 crashes involving distracted driving, 56 of which involved a fatality.

AAA East Central, which services the Tri-State Area, is among the organizations that is reminding drivers that by staying focused on the road, they can save lives. Officials with the organization report that the consequences of alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving are often the same, and can lead to injuries or deaths that are entirely preventable.

All of the numbers, all of the reminders all add up to a very simple message: When drivers stay focused on the road ahead, they are able to save lives.

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