Disconnect and Drive: It’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month

by Gwen Newell

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month which makes it a perfect time to remind motorists about the importance of focusing on the road ahead and not on their smartphones.

According to 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving crashes killed 3,142 people in the United States – an average of 9 deaths per day. That number was up 10% from the year before (2,839 deaths in 2018). Within the Carolinas, North Carolina saw a total of 53,541 crashes that involved a distracted driver, resulting in 154 fatalities – while South Carolina saw a total of 18,936 crashes involving a distracted driver, resulting in 56 fatalities.

Distracted driving remains a growing traffic safety issue nationwide. Any distraction, whether it be operating a mobile device or talking to a passenger, could be enough to cause a crash. In fact, the top 3 risky driver distractions are mobile phone use, in-vehicle technology and passengers in the vehicle.

Unfortunately, drivers who do use their mobile phones behind the wheel have chosen to ignore the message that it is extremely dangerous. In 2019, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a nationwide survey which found:

  • Most drivers (96%) believe typing or reading on a handheld cellphone while driving to be extremely dangerous
  • Unfortunately, some of them do it anyway. 39% admit to reading and 29% admit to typing on a smartphone at least once while behind the wheel within the past month.

Checking your phone at the stoplight can also be risky. AAA research found that drivers can experience a “hangover effect” where the mind stays distracted for up to 27 seconds after using smartphones or voice-to-text vehicle systems to send text messages, make phone calls or update social media. In other words, once that light turns green, your mind may still be focused on your phone and not on the road.

AAA offers these tips to avoid distracted driving:

  • Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
  • Know where you’re going. If using navigation, program the destination before driving.
  • Pull over. If you must call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop.
  • 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 will prevent calls from coming in while you’re driving.
  • Everyone should avoid distractions while in traffic. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.

AAA has been committed to raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, especially cellphone use behind the wheel, and continues its campaign “Disconnect and Drive” in the Carolinas.

Additionally, AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety is excited to announce a new partnership with The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) and The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA). The partnership will include an integrated marketing presence throughout the spring season to promote AAA’s “Disconnect & Drive” campaign and educate students and families about the dangers associated with driving while distracted.

As part of the partnership, AAA will receive entitlement of a new “Take the Pledge” School Challenge that will run from April 1 through April 30. Students from all NCHSAA and NCISAA member schools will be encouraged to “Take the Pledge” to drive distraction-free by visiting the Disconnect & Drive website (disconnectanddrive.com) and entering their name and school affiliation. The school with the highest percentage of students that “Take the Pledge” will receive a $1,000 donation. All students that “Take the Pledge” will also have a chance to win a $500 scholarship.

Take the pledge to drive distraction-free!

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