Each day, eight people are killed and another 1,161 injured in crashes involving a distracted driver according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thirty-one percent of drivers in a survey cited by the CDC said they had read or sent a text message or email while driving at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey.
In 2015, 3,477 people were killed in crashes in which distracted driving was a factor, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
To draw attention to the problem defined by these statistics, April has been designated as Distracted Driving Awareness month.
When her own family was affected by distracted driving, Jodi Bales of the One More Day Foundation made it her mission to bring the problem of distracted driving in front of the audience most affected — drivers between the ages of 16 and 24.
Q. What is the One More Day foundation, and why was it started?
A. My daughter, Alicia Nicholson, was killed on Feb. 6, 2016, by a woman who failed to stop at a four-way intersection in Cumberland County. (The driver) has been charged with texting and driving. We started this foundation to raise awareness to the dangers of distracted driving, in hopes of saving another family from having to live through a lifetime of pain. Alicia left behind a husband, two daughters, Aaliyah and Annabelle (at the time 3 years old and 1 year old). She was three months shy of graduating from the HACC nursing program.
Editor’s Note: Andrea Lenk was charged in July 2016 with felony homicide by vehicle, misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and several summary traffic violations in connection with the crash at the intersection of Route 174 and West Lisburn Road in Monroe Township, and is awaiting trial.
Q. What do you do to raise awareness of the problem of distracted driving?
A. It has only been 14 months, however, in that time, I have spoken at Boiling Springs High School, Big Spring High School and West Shore Christian Academy. On May 11, I will be speaking at the Carlisle High School. Recently, I have become a member of the Pennsylvania Teen Safe Driving Coalition and spoke at the Teen Traffic Safety Symposium on April 24. The One More Day Foundation hosted a 5k on Saturday, April 15, to help raise awareness as well.
Q. How prevalent is distracted driving here in the Cumberland County area?
A. Sadly, distracted driving is a growing epidemic. Each year the number of distracted driving related crashes rises. Visit www.teensafedriving.org/pa for more information and statistics.
Q. What can people do to reduce the potential for distracted driving in their own vehicles?
A. Every cellphone provider offers an app (for example, AT&T’s drivemode app) that turns off all alerts when your car reaches 15 miles per hour. One of the leading causes of cellphone usage while driving is the temptation when the driver hears an alert such as the alert when a text message is received. Once a driver has eliminated their own distractions, drive defensively. Be aware of your surroundings and other drivers. Make certain they are stopping at a red light or a stop sign. Follow the laws of driving. Those laws are made to protect and save our lives. A vehicle is a very powerful weapon.
Q. How can the community support the mission of the One More Day foundation?
A. The community can access our website at www.driveattentive.org. Support fundraisers. Contact the foundation if they have an event that could utilize a speaker to discuss the dangers of distracted driving and statistics. Drive attentive. Save a life. Educate your loved ones.