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Make Sure New Media is Not a Source of Distracted Driving

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Miguel with PhonesAIDS.gov encourages the use of new media to respond to public health issues, and to meet our audiences’ needs, we offer content through social media. Over time, we are seeing a major shift in the way people are accessing our content—nearly 50% of our traffic is now coming from mobile devices.

While we are excited about this enormous upsurge in mobile use, we are mindful that there are potential dangers to using mobile devices—especially while driving. Since Distracted Driving month in April, the AIDS.gov team has blogged several times to encourage our readers to keep their eyes on the road. We want you to be safe and to access our content when you’re not behind the wheel.

Research on the dangers of distracted driving continues to accumulate. According to Monash University,  drivers who use handheld devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. What’s more, 40% of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger, according to the Pew Research Center Exit Disclaimer . Given the potential hazards, we want to share additional research on the effects of distracted driving by Dr. Bryan Reimer Exit Disclaimer , a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab.

If we look at our phones while driving—even if it’s just a quick glance—our eyes are not on the road. Reimer points out, however, that even when we are looking at the road, we are still very—even dangerously—distracted. “Eyes on the road does not equal mind on the road. While physically engaging with your phone is itself a distraction, the content of the communication is what causes the “cognitive distraction” even when your eyes are on the road. The more emotionally charged the content, the more distracted you’ll be,” explains Reimer. And text messaging isn’t the only culprit. All communications mediums—talking, texting, social media, web browsing—have the capacity to distract.

In June, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued a “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving ” that offers a comprehensive strategy to address the growing use of mobile phones while driving. Learn more at www.distraction.gov.

Let’s consider what we can do to keep safe while on the road. Reimer advises his loved ones to “be aware of the traffic environment before you pick up the phone or engage in any other distracting activity.” Do tell the person you’re talking to that you can’t talk at the moment and need to focus on driving. Finally there is no safe way to text and drive.” For new drivers, Reimer recommends they avoid using the phone and any other distractions while driving for at least a few years.

At AIDS.gov our mission is to promote HIV prevention, care, and treatment through the use of new media, which we believe also means supporting our Federal partners who are working to make the roads safer. Consider taking the Department of Transportation’s pledge to commit to distraction-free driving and following through with it. It may be tough to stick to that pledge, but you, your fellow drivers, and your friends at AIDS.gov will be glad you did.

 

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