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By Emily Wilfong
Special to The SUN
The only thing less predictable than Colorado weather in the spring is a driver texting alongside you. They might as well be wearing a blindfold. In recognition and support of the National Safety Council’s (NSC) designation of April as “Distracted Driving Awareness Month,” the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is launching a new campaign focused on the notion that sending a text message while driving is like wearing a five-second blindfold.
CDOT and the NSC remind everyone this April to combat distracted driving by doing the following:
• Put your cell phone out of reach while driving to reduce the temptation to pick it up.
• Recognize that hands-free devices offer little safety benefit, as they distract from your brain’s ability to multi-task.
• Understand the dangers of cognitive distraction to the brain.
• Be vocal with family, friends and coworkers about the dangers of distracted driving.
There are many statistics surrounding this issue, including the fact that with each text sent or received, a driver’s eyes are diverted from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds — enough time to drive the length of a football field at 55 mph — blindfolded.
“Distracted driving is only becoming more commonplace as the years go by,” said Amy Ford, CDOT communications director. “Mobile technology is not slowing down and it’s more tempting than ever to pick up your phone, whether it’s at a stoplight or while driving 65 mph down the highway. There is no greater distraction than texting and driving, which is why it is the focus of this year’s campaign.”
Nationwide in 2012, more than 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. This is an alarming number to many — including Carol Gould, highway safety manager at CDOT.
“It’s a tricky problem to solve,” says Gould. “The fact is that engaging with your phone or another type of electronic device increases the risk of an accident by three times. The only way to change this behavior is to build enough awareness so that any time someone enters their car, the first thought they have is to put away the phone — and lose the blindfold.”
To help build that high level of awareness among Coloradans, CDOT will leverage certain key partner campaigns in addition to pushing their own efforts. One of these campaigns is Red Thumb Reminder — an anti-texting and driving campaign founded in 2013 by Steve Babcock and Evolution Bureau of Boulder.
Taking the challenge is simple: You simply paint the nail on the thumb with which you operate your phone. Every time you go to send a text, your red thumb reminder will kick in and remind you to put away the phone.
“Red Thumb Reminder is a simple yet powerful campaign strategy with an eye-catching delivery,” says Ford. “We challenge everyone to paint their thumb nail red and try it out for the month of April.”
In addition to leveraging these partnerships, CDOT is planning to distribute a series of brochures, posters and window clings for public consumption, all using the “A Text is a Five Second Blindfold” tagline. For more information about the campaign, including additional facts on distracted driving, visit www.coloradodot.info/programs/distracteddriving.