April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so don't even think about it

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It may be April Fools' Day, but that doesn't mean it's OK to act like a fool on the road. That's because it's Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Distracted driving is something you'll see pretty much anywhere you drive. Someone will usually be on their phone, texting, watching videos or doing whatever.

"You'll see cars swerving, maybe they're speeding, they could be all of a sudden looking up and then slamming on their brakes, realizing that they missed their turn," South Bend Police spokesman Ken Garcia said. "So, there's a lot of different signs out there, but the surefire way of knowing is if their car is starting to swerve, because they're clearly not paying attention."

Cellphones aren't the only distraction on the road.

"You can have your friends in the car who are laughing and screaming and you're wanting to join in and have fun with them," Garcia said. "So, there are a lot of distractions that can be in the car, which is why we- I got, like, 3 or 4 people- sorry, I got distracted talking!"

But all jokes aside, one look away, and that could be it. Michigan State Police saw more than 20,000 distracted driving crashes in 2017. Seventy-two people died in those crashes. That's more than 50 percent more of both crashes and deaths from the previous year.

"When you're in a car, you have an awesome responsibility to make sure you're keeping an eye on where you are, where you're going, and that your focus is on the road and what it is you're doing at that time," Garcia said.

But in reality, those numbers could be a lot greater.

"The person's got to be honest, right? If there's a crash, they have to straight up say, 'Yeah, I was on my phone. Yeah, I wasn't paying attention,'" Garcia said. "It's human nature to not want to admit that you messed up on something. If we clearly see it and we can tell you definitively, 'Yes, that is what you are doing,' we can say it was distracted driving. But more often than not, it's because of a driver error is why crashes happen."

To prevent any issues, police say, just put the phones away, ask your friends to quiet down and make sure you're driving distraction-free.

On the week of April 11, police departments across Michigan will be keeping a close eye to crack down on distracted drivers.