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Eyes on the Road: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Texting while driving is illegal in Tennessee, but too many people do it anyway  sometimes with disastrous results.  (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
Texting while driving is illegal in Tennessee, but too many people do it anyway sometimes with disastrous results. (DodgertonSkillhause/morguefile)
April 5, 2016

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - In the last 10 years, distracted driving was to blame for more than 172,000 accidents on Tennessee roadways, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety.

Experts believe that number is actually higher, with not everyone reporting their distraction at the time of an accident. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and AARP Tennessee is reminding Tennesseans about the importance of paying attention when behind the wheel.

George Coleman, state coordinator for AARP Tennessee, teaches safe-driving classes in the Memphis area.

"People are doing so many more things," he says. "They're multiple-tasking in their driving and this is why so many crashes are happening, because people are not paying attention and there are distractions to what they're doing."

Smartphones are increasingly a major distraction for drivers.

Tennessee bans the use of hand-held cell phones by school bus and novice drivers. Text messaging while driving is illegal.

AARP Tennessee sponsors safe-driving classes around the state for folks who'd like some extra pointers and updates on the laws; some insurance companies offer discounts to people who complete the class.

Coleman says it's important not to underestimate the lifelong impact a moment of distraction can have.

"You're driving through a neighborhood, you answer your phone, and a young child runs out in front of you," he says. "Your reaction time is slow, you're talking on the phone, you're not paying attention to your driving. You run over a child, you kill that child – then, you've got to live the rest of your life knowing you took a child's life."

The distracted-driving problem is especially high among younger generations.

In one National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey, nearly 30 percent of drivers ages 21 to 34 said texting has "no impact" on their ability to drive safely.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN