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AAA Urges Drivers to Tune Into Driving,Tune Out Distractions

Ohio ― Every year, thousands lose their lives on America’s roadways because a driver diverted their attention away from their driving. Unfortunately, even a few seconds of inattentiveness can yield deadly results.

More than 3000.pngApril marks National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and AAA is taking the opportunity to remind drivers to avoid distractions and keep their focus on the road.

“Too often, motorists multi-task behind the wheel, wrongly believing that it does no harm,” said Kara Hitchens, public and government affairs manager, AAA. “Distracted drivers not only put themselves at risk, but others as well. A few moments of inattentiveness can bring a lifetime of heartache for loved ones of distracted driving victims.”

About 13% of distraction-related crashes every year involve confirmed use of a smartphone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Hitchens points out that while sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for only about 5 seconds, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed when traveling at 55 mph.

As part of an ongoing national distracted driving effort, AAA has joined with the Ohio Traffic Safety Office, NHTSA and other traffic safety advocates to work toward changing the behavior of drivers through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education. Last year, Ohio strengthened the distracted driving law and has already seen some success. Safety advocates are reporting the law has helped reduce distracted driving in Ohio by 8.6%. This reduction in distraction has helped prevent 3,600 crashes, 2,000 injuries, 17 fatalities, and $144 million in economic damages in the past year.

While there is still work to be done, Ohio saw 28 distracted-driving-related fatal crashes in 2023, the lowest total over the last five years.

A Widespread Problem

NHTSA distracted driving statistics show that on average, about 9 lives are lost every day due to distracted driving. Although distracted drivers can be found in all age groups, those drivers under age 44 are particularly overrepresented.

In 2022, there were 3,308 people killed and an additional 289,310 people injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Eight percent of all fatal crashes, 12 percent of injury crashes and 11 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes were reported as distraction-affected.

Distracted driving puts other road users at risk as well, in addition to drivers and vehicle passengers. In 2022, there were 621 non-occupants ― pedestrians, bicyclists and others ― killed in distraction-affected traffic crashes nationwide, according to NHTSA data.

Distracted driving is likely an even greater problem than statistics would indicate. Because of the challenges for law enforcement in determining if distracted driving was the primary factor in a traffic incident, the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities due to distraction is believed to be significantly underreported. 

Vehicle Tech has Lingering Effect

While use of a smartphone has resulted in more than one fatality per day on average, distracted driving can result from any activity that diverts attention away from driving.

Common causes of distracted driving, in addition to texting and talking on a mobile device, include eating and drinking, smoking, passenger interaction, distractions outside the vehicle, a moving object within the vehicle, adjusting in-vehicle climate or infotainment controls, or simply ‘daydreaming’ behind the wheel.Unfortunately, many drivers are less aware of the dangers of other distractions.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety partnered with researchers from the University of Utah to test the visual and cognitive demand created by infotainment systems in various vehicles. Researchers found that while only 2 seconds of distraction doubles the crash risk, it takes a driver 40 seconds to program navigation using in-vehicle technology. Traveling at just 25 mph, a driver can travel the length of about four football fields during the time it takes to enter a destination in navigation.

In addition to underestimating the risk of a moment’s distraction, many drivers remain unaware of the “hangover” effect caused by technology interaction. The study found that it can take up to 27 seconds for the impairing effects of mental distraction to subside once a driver stops interacting with technology in the vehicle.

While vehicle technology is meant to keep drivers and their passengers safe or comfortable, it can also increase the potential for a crash if used while driving. Even if drivers wait to interact with their vehicle tech while parked or stopped at a red light, their mind is still not fully focused on the task of driving for nearly a half minute after they’ve stopped using the technology and started moving again. This hangover effect puts other drivers, vehicle passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians at risk.

“The impairing effects that linger after technology use ― whether a smartphone or in-vehicle tech ― sets up a dangerous situation that can lead to ‘inattention blindness,’ where drivers have their eyes on the road but are not seeing what is in front of them,” Hitchens warned.

Stay Safe, Stay Focused

AAA encourages all motorists to eliminate distracted driving by following these tips:

  • Put the phone away. If you can’t resist the temptation to look at your screen, place your mobile device in your trunk or elsewhere out of sight.
  • Plan your route before heading out. If you plan to use a navigation system, program the destination before you drive.
  • Pull over first. If you must call or text while on the road, pull over to a safe location and park your vehicle before doing so. Be aware of the “hangover effect” when heading back into traffic.
  • Ask passengers for help. If someone is riding with you, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a text while you drive.
  • Be a safe-minded passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle texts or is otherwise distracted.
  • Don’t be a distraction. If you are an occupant, avoid distracting the driver and assist with navigation, climate or infotainment controls when needed. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
  • Activate the Do Not Disturb setting. Using this feature on your iPhone or Android device will prevent calls from coming in while you’re driving.
  • Other road users also have a role. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling. Don’t allow headphones and music to divert your attention or affect your ability to hear approaching traffic.

For more information, visit Distracted Driving on aaa.com.

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