JOPLIN, Mo. — April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and experts say just putting down your phone can save lives.

“When you pull up to any intersection anymore, somebody is staring at their phone, or when you meet someone on a two-lane road, they’re looking at their phone,” said Sam Carpenter, Corporal Missouri Highway Patrol.

Driving distracted is something that most people do but won’t admit.

Representatives with MODOT and the Missouri Highway Patrol are reminding the public to buckle up and put the phone down for Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving attributed to 3,522 deaths in 2021 and on average takes 9 lives per day.

“Anything that takes your eyes off of the road is a distraction. So that could be passengers, your radio, or children in the backseat, just daydreaming and not looking out the windshield. There’s plenty of glass in the car, right, so we want you looking forward and ahead, anticipating maybe problems that may be coming down the road,” said Carpenter.

“The average time to read a text is about five seconds. When you look down and read that text for five seconds you travel the length of a football field, so that is like driving blindfolded for a hundred yards,” said Marvin Morris, MoDOT Engineer.

When behind the wheel, every second matters.

Corporal Carpenter shared some tips and tricks on how to stay focused while driving.

“An easy one to do is just the toggle switch on your phone to turn on that ‘Do not disturb’ while driving, that way you’re not gonna get alerted, and you’re not gonna be tempted to check the message. We are all curious about what’s going on, it might be something really important, usually, it’s not but we don’t want you to look at it. The other thing is to put your phone down somewhere you can’t reach it. Obviously, we want you to have a device with you in case something happens and you need to call emergency services, but put it out of your reach maybe or just tell everybody, ‘Hey, we are driving, we can have these conversations when we get where we are going’. Anything you can do to be more focused on the task at hand and we tell people driving is a full time job and we expect you to treat it that way,” said Carpenter.