Each day, about 10 people are killed in distracted driving crashes — contributing to the 37,000 people killed in crashes on U.S. roadways during 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As National Distracted Driving Awareness Month begins, AAA East Central is launching a new, multiyear initiative that aims to reduce deaths and injuries as a result of cellphone use by drivers.
“Don’t Drive Intoxicated— Don’t Drive Intexticated” is the theme of AAA’s traffic safety education campaign created to make distracted driving socially unacceptable.
The campaign targets drivers who would never consider drinking a beer behind the wheel, and yet, regularly engage with mobile devices that dangerously take their eyes, hands and minds off the road.
“The safety of our roads has always and will continue to be a priority for AAA and its members,” said Theresa Podguski, AAA East Central director of Legislative Affairs. “This campaign is necessary, now more than ever, to help combat the growing problem of distracted driving and its deadly results.”
AAA East Central recognizes the impact that more than 50 years of public education efforts against alcohol-impaired driving have had across the country.
Those campaigns helped to achieve changes to alcohol-impaired driving laws, increased enforcement, and, critically, a shift in public attitudes and behaviors toward drinking and driving.
Although much more still needs to be done, anti-drunk-driving campaigns and related efforts have helped cut the number of alcohol-impaired crash fatalities in half since the 1980s, according to the National Institutes of Health.
New research released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that even though 97 percent of drivers say texting/emailing while driving is a serious or very serious threat to their safety, 45 percent admit to having read a text or email while driving in the past month, and 35 percent admit to having typed one.
AAA’s sobering new message makes it clear that the consequences of both alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving are the same — deaths and injuries.
According to NHTSA, distracted driving is the third leading driver-related cause of crash fatalities behind speeding and driving under the influence.
And these numbers likely underestimate the problem because most drivers do not admit to distracting cellphone use after a crash.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has conducted numerous studies regarding distracted driving that demonstrate:
•Drivers interacting with cellphones to perform tasks like texting or surfing the Internet are two to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash.
•Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of being involved in a crash.
•Fifty-nine percent of all teen crashes involve some form of driver inattention, and 12 percent of teen crashes involve cellphone use.
•Drivers who use in-vehicle technologies, like voice-based and touch screen features, can be distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending a text message.
AAA encourages all motorists to eliminate distracted driving by following these tips:
•Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
•Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
•Pull over. If you have to call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
•Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
•Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
•Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
•Everyone should prevent being intexticated. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.
Editor’s note: Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on roadways, the foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 80 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.