RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There’s a new effort to keep more North Carolinians safe on the road, at a time of year where we tend to see an increase in deadly crashes.

Driving instructor Savannah Gregory behind the wheel (Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

It’s something you see almost every day — distracted drivers, or passengers without a seatbelt.

“It’s very easy to miss the slightest thing that will make the biggest difference in your life,” said Savannah Gregory, driving instructor and co-owner of Raleigh driving school Drivers of the Future.

It’s why North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has declared Oct. 25 Buckle Up, Phone Down Day.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, more than 17 percent of crashes in North Carolina last year involved a distracted driver.

Also in 2022, NCDOT says 712 people died from not wearing a seatbelt or driving while distracted. Out of those people, they said 50 percent were not wearing a seatbelt.

However, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles said it could be a bigger problem than we think.

They state driver distraction is a self-reporting circumstance, and the data collected may not reflect the severity of the issue.

Seatbelt (Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

“Your two most important skills when you are driving are critical thinking and observation,” Gregory explained. “You can’t critically think about the task that’s happening at hand when you are distracted by other information.”

When you get in the car, you’ll want to make sure your phone is on silent and put away, so you can pay attention while you’re on the road.

You’ll also want to make sure your seatbelt and passengers’ seatbelts are on.

More state data says October is the deadliest month of the year to be on the road.

“People are gearing up for the holidays, so energetically and emotionally, that’s a very turbulent time,” Gregory said. “People’s mindsets are shifting, and suddenly where there was a little bit of a dormant place in their minds, things are exponentially starting to change. They’re starting to think about spending time with their family, they’re starting to think about buying Christmas presents already.”

It’s all the more reason to pay attention and buckle up.

“Your life, your family, your livelihood depends on it,” Gregory said. “And other people’s lives do too.”

Tips to drive safely

Gregory said there are five key ways drivers can stay safe on the road.

She said they come from the Smith System, which has been proven effective for about 75 years.

The five keys are as follows:

  1. Aim high in steering
  2. Get the big picture of what’s around you
  3. Keep your eyes moving
  4. Always leave yourself an out
  5. Make sure other people can see you when you drive

Click here to learn more.

Driver at the wheel (Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)