Government Takes Aim at Distracted Driving With “Put the Phone Away or Pay” Campaign

( — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on their website that April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, crediting the practice with the deaths of 3,308 people in 2022.

The NHTSA’s Region Seven is participating along with law enforcement agencies across the country in a new high-profile campaign dubbed “Put the Phone Away or Pay.” Sophie Shulman, deputy administrator for the NHTSA, says that the word pay could mean a ticket, points on a person’s license or even what she calls “the ultimate price,” which would be paying for your poor decisions on the road with your own or someone else’s life in a deadly auto accident.

The NHTSA website has a helpful section on risky driving, which includes drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs, speeding, driving while sleepy, and distracted driving. While cell phones are among the worst culprits for distracting drivers, the Put the Phone Away or Pay campaign also warns against drinking beverages of any kind while driving, applying makeup, adjusting your radio, or even getting distracted by GPS.

Chief of the Baltimore County Police Department, Robert McCullough, whose department is working tirelessly to combat the problem of distracted driving through education, training and focused enforcement, says that becoming distracted while driving for even five seconds can be compared to driving the “length of an entire football field” with your eyes closed. He exhorts people to put away their phones while driving, as the life they save may be their own.

NHTSA Region Seven Administrator Susan DeCourcy commented that distracted driving is one of the leading causes of vehicle crashes in America, and lays most of the blame on irresponsible cell phone use. Texting while driving is illegal in 48 states, while 34 states prohibit any mobile phone use while driving. In several states, distracted driving fell by an average of 6.6% after passing hands-free laws. During the month of April, people can expect to see increased enforcement of current distracted driving laws as well as a push to reduce the practice further. The NHTSA website also encourages people to share a pledge on social media to drive phone-free.

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