KINGMAN - April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. One would think an awareness campaign would not be required, but of the 29,400 collisions in Arizona in 2015, 2,729 were related to inattentive drivers.
Highway Patrol troopers additionally issued more than 4,200 citations and 3,300 warnings for violations connected to distracted driving.
In Kingman, one of a handful of Arizona cities to enact a ban on using handheld electronic devices while driving, police issued 123 warnings to motorists using their cell phones to talk or text from Jan. 1, the date the prohibition went into effect, and March 31, when a 90-day warning-only grace period expired.
The warning-only period ended April 1, Kingman Police officers have since issued 10 more warnings to errant drivers, but no citations, according to Kingman Police Deputy Chief Rusty Cooper.
There are three types of distractions while driving - visual, manual, and cognitive. Eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off of driving. Here's a list of examples, provided to DPS by the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration:
Talking on cell phone
Eating or drinking
Talking to passengers
Reading, including maps
Using a navigational system (GPS)
Watching a video
Adjusting a radio, CD or MP3 player
The problem is serious, considering DPS compared distracted drivers to intoxicated drivers, and they have the science to back it up.
"Distracted driving delays a driver's reaction time equaling that of a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content," according to Highway Patrol Sgt. Zach Swalander, a motorcycle squad supervisor in the Tucson area. "In some cases a distracted driver is worse than a drunk driver. The drunk driver, though impaired, has his eyes on the road. A distracted driver has no eyes on the road."
Texting, whether sending or receiving, takes the average driver's eyes off the road for five seconds. A vehicle traveling at 55 mph would cover the length of a football field in that amount of time. In making its point, DPS cited a study done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The report concluded delayed reactions "may lead to deadly consequences in heavy traffic. If you drive distracted, you are three times more likely to be involved in a collision."