As traffic begins to pick up across the country with increased vaccinations and decreased pandemic restrictions, AAA Northern New England reminds drivers about the importance of focusing on the road ahead and not on their smartphones. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and AAA has just released the results of a survey to assess driver attitudes and behaviors toward distracted driving.
The online AAA survey revealed the following:
- More than half of drivers (51 percent) admitted they text and/or email while alone in the vehicle
- Those age 25 to 34 are even more likely (59 percent) to text and/or email while driving alone
- A quarter (26 percent) of drivers say it’s OK to use a cell phone if they are alone and at a complete stop with no other passengers in the vehicle
Even though using a hand-held device is illegal while driving and while stopped at a red light or stop sign in many states, the survey suggests some drivers do so anyway and aren’t aware of the “hangover effect,” which comes from interacting with technology while on the road. In a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers found drivers can experience a “hangover effect” where the mind stays distracted for up to 27 seconds after using smartphones or voice-to-text vehicle infotainment systems to send text messages, make phone calls or update social media.
“Even if drivers perform some of these tasks while parked, or stopped at a red light, once you start moving, and even after you stop using the technology, your mind is still not fully focused on the task of driving for up to 27 seconds,” said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England. “This is a dangerous situation that could lead to inattention blindness, where you’re looking at the road but not seeing what’s in front of you, putting other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians at risk.”
This is the fourth year of AAA’s distracted driving prevention initiative titled “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” The goal of the multi-media initiative is to remind drivers that the consequences of both alcohol-impaired driving and smartphone use behind the wheel could be the same - crashes that result in deaths and injuries. In addition to the survey, AAA is releasing a new television public service announcement (PSA) which targets drivers who text while they are alone in their vehicle.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019 distracted driving crashes killed 3,142 people in the U.S., an average of 9 deaths per day. That number was up 10 percent from the year before (2,839 deaths in 2018).
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index revealed distracted driving remains a growing traffic safety problem. The survey found most drivers (96 percent) believe typing or reading on a hand-held cellphone while driving to be very or extremely dangerous, but 39 percent admit to reading and 29 percent admit to typing on a smartphone at least once while behind the wheel within the last month.
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 must 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.
- Activate Do Not Disturb. Setting up this feature on iPhone or Android device will prevent calls from coming in while you’re 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.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 61 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services. Operating 18 offices throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, AAA Northern New England is a not-for-profit, fully tax-paying corporation and serves as an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. For more information visit aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted.