Nearly 500 people died on Oregon roads in 2016, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. That is an increase of almost 60 percent in three years. Evidence concludes that many road deaths can be linked to distracted driving.

Drive Healthy is a new campaign from the Oregon Department of Transporattion, Oregon State Patrol and AAA, begining Sept. 1,  to encourage healthy driving habits. They want to achieve a marked reduction in the number of people injured due to distracted drivers. Every three hours someone in Oregon is injured by a distracted driver, which is not surprising when up to 75 percent of Oregonians say they drive distracted.

Healthy driving is defined as ‘hands on the wheel, mind on the road.’ That’s especially true here in the mid-Willamette Valley where traffic gets heavier year after year. Let’s face it, we’re really talking about people talking or texting on their cellphones while driving. When you drive look around and you’ll conclude that easily 75 percent of your fellow drivers are concentrating on their phone call or their text message rather than the car in front of them or on the sides of them

The Drive Healthy campaign will endeavor to make healthy driving a winning proposition by having drivers install the LifeSaver app and participate as driving members of an organization or a group. Beginning Sept. 1,  the competition starts to see who is Oregon’s safest driver.

When a driver registers the app that scores on whether you unlock or use their phone while their vehicle is in motion. Less unlocking of a phone means a a higher score. Drive Healthy will post the scores which are reset each month. Not only will they be able to see who the safest drivers are, but also track changes in driving behavior.

We fully embrace this campaign. States can pass no cell while driving laws, but the enforcement generally comes when and if that driver is pulled over for some other infraction. The Drive Healthy campaign is an alternative to the scolding campaign that never seems to work: don’t text and drive lands on too many deaf ears.

A societal change of behavior regarding distracted driving really needs to start when people are driving with their young kids in the car—young people ape what they see, and if pre-teens see their parents texting or talking on their cellphones it reenforces the message to the children that it is okay. That behavior then follows them into their cellphone-owning and driving years.

The Drive Healthy campaign is not a frivolous, teens-only, program. It is for everyone. Members of a church, members of a club, co-employees—groups can be comprised of anything.

This is a good time to get the LifeSaver app and join the healthy driving campaign. The penalty for distracted driving also goes from $500 to $2,000 and goes into effect on Oct. 1.

Not getting injured, or getting into an accident or receiving a $2,000 fine are some good incentives to be part of the campaign.

Drivers can visit drivehealthy.org to learn more about the program and the app.

  —LAZ