Typically held in April but postponed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) due to COVID-19, this year National Distracted Driving Awareness Month is being recognized during the month of October. To help highlight the dangers of distraction while behind the wheel, AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety wants to spread awareness through their Disconnect and Drive campaign.
Known to be a leading cause in fatal car crashes, distracted driving is not only extremely risky, but it can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Having distractions behind the wheel regularly can result in devastating consequences for the simple fact that when a driver’s attention is diverted from the road, their reaction-time slows and lives are at risk.
Texting-while-driving is only one of many distractions that endanger motorists on the road every day. While most attribute just texting to distracted driving, it is important to note that other behaviors such as checking and posting to social media, browsing music playlists, reading emails, etc. are all habits that contribute to distractions on the road that can result in a fatal injury or crash.
With over 22 percent of distraction-affected crashes involving confirmed use of a smartphone, it is no surprise that one of the top 3 risky distractions is cellphone use – the other two being in-vehicle technology and passengers in the vehicle. According to 2018 data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2,839 people were killed and 400,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
Please consider a few of these sobering statistics next time you are behind the wheel. Looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash and five seconds of reading an email or text is like driving across a football field while blindfolded. Mental distractions can last up to 27 seconds after dialing, texting or changing the radio station and can cause a dangerous crash or fatality.
AAA’s Top Tips to Avoid Distractions While Driving
- Prepare for your drive. Set vehicle systems like GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time. And please, finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
- Disable or stow electronics. Never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving. Stow your smartphone away, turn it to airplane mode, or activate call/text blocking features.
- Stay focused. Do not let anything divert your attention. Be sure to actively scan the road, use your mirrors, and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists. If you have passengers, enlist their help as a “designated texter”. Ask them to answer your calls, respond to texts and program the navigation.
Despite what some drivers may think, hands-free is not risk-free. Even with your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, you are not safe unless your mind focuses on the drive. Joining the commitment to drive distraction-free benefits all of us. We encourage everyone to “Put Down the Phone” and take the pledge to Disconnect and Drive today. Take the pledge here