For the Antigo Times
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Last year in Wisconsin, 113 people were killed in distracted driving crashes.
Kaitlyn Vegter was driving to Janesville in January 2016 on a clear straight highway. She reached down to change the music on her smart phone and took her eyes of the road just for a few seconds when her life suddenly changed forever. Traveling at highway speed, her car slammed into the back of a pay loader that was turning into a farm driveway.
Defying the odds, she survived the crash but suffered extensive injuries that required her to relearn how to walk, talk and even eat. “At age 20, I was like a child who had to learn everything over,” she said.
To warn others of the dangers of distracted driving, Kaitlyn told her story in a video available on the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s (WisDOT) You Tube channel.
“Everyone needs to realize that the catastrophic consequences of distracted driving, also known as inattentive driving, are not exaggerated and are a growing threat to everyone on the road. That’s why April has been designated as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month,” says David Pabst, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety. “Last year in Wisconsin, 113 people were killed in crashes in which at least one driver was listed as driving inattentively. In addition, 11,302 people were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2016. Fatalities from distracted crashes in 2016 increased nearly 10 percent from 2015 when 103 people were killed. The number of people injured last year in distracted driving crashes also went up more than 6 percent from 2015 when 10,640 were injured.”
To help motivate people to pay attention behind the wheel, WisDOT will air TV, radio and online messages that creatively highlight how distracted driving is entirely preventable. The video messages, featuring a new super-villain known as the “Distractor,” also are available on WisDOT’s You Tube channel.
In addition, WisDOT will continue to display messages warning about the dangers of distracted driving on electronic signs on major highways.
Pabst says, “Even though you may have a busy life and routinely try to multi-task, it’s time to put a stop to distracted driving habits, which put your life and the lives of others in grave danger.”
Wisconsin traffic crashes kill 28 people in March
Preliminary data shows 28 people died in Wisconsin traffic crashes last month, seven fewer compared to March of last year, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). In terms of traffic deaths, last month was tied for the second safest month of March since the end of World War II. The safest March occurred in 2010 with 23 fatalities, and the deadliest March was in 1970 with 99 fatalities.
Over the first three months of this year, a total of 98 people were killed in crashes, 24 fewer than the same period last year (a decrease of nearly 20 percent) and six less compared to the five-year average.
“The return of warmer weather means more bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcycles will be traveling along Wisconsin roadways, so all travelers need to be alert, patient and willing to share the road,” said David Pabst, director of WisDOT’s Bureau of Transportation Safety. “Also, April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so we’re reminding people to put down their phones or electronic devices, eliminate all distractions, and just focus on driving.”