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NEWS | April 15, 2014

U Drive. U Text. U Pay.

By Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

If you're caught texting while driving, the message you receive might not be from your cell phone, but from law enforcement.

And while cell phones play a huge role in distracted driving, there are many other risks that can cause drivers to become distracted.

Distracted driving is caused by any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger drivers, passengers and safety.

"Anything that takes your attention away from the wheel can be unsafe," said Staff Sgt. Amy Barnett, Ground Safety technician. "We see it happen all the time. There are so many ways to be sidetracked while driving."

These types of distractions include texting, using a cell phone or smartphone, eating and drinking, grooming, reading, including maps, using a navigation system, watching a video or even adjusting a radio, CD player or mp3 player.

Because text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.

With cell phones being so widespread these days, people often don't think about the consequences when it comes to texting and driving. People naturally assume the statistics don't apply to them and that they can defy the odds.

An estimated 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 were injured in distraction-related crashes in 2012 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The NHTSA also reported 10 percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes and 16 percent of all motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2012 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.

"People believe that it won't happen to them," said Barnett. "That's not a safe way to think."

Luckily, distracted driving is something that is easily prevented just by being aware of your surroundings.

Ways to reduce the risk of distracted driving involve turning off your phone or silencing it before getting into your vehicle. Another tip is to set up a special message that will automatically respond to callers to let them know that you are driving.

Be on the lookout for signs and signals, not your phone.

If there is an emergency, pull over to a safe area and stop your vehicle before responding.

On Joint Base Charleston - Air Base, S.C., there is a strict hands-free device policy while driving on base. Be sure to keep that in mind when family and friends come to visit. Remember, you are responsible for whomever you bring on base.

Above all, stay safe. Distracted driving poses a real threat to both drivers and bystanders.

To find out more information about distracted driving, contact the Ground Safety office at 963-5598 or 963-5597 or visit the NHTSA website at http://www.distraction.gov.