17:00 PM

Distracted Driving Is Not Just Talking and Texting on Your Phone

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

MADISON, Wis., (April 6, 2022) – April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and AAA says Wisconsinites can avoid being distracted by keeping their eyes on the road. Even with your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, you are not safe unless your mind focuses on the drive.

According to AAA:

  • Driver distractions come in many forms: eating, drinking, personal grooming, adjusting the radio, using a cell phone, text messaging, other passengers, and many others.
  • Taking your eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles your risk of a crash.

View AAA's Distracted Driving Fact Sheet

"Distracted drivers kill thousands of people every year," said Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. "If you're not focused on driving, you're endangering the lives of everyone on the road. Please put the phone down and eliminate any other distractions when you get behind the wheel."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • 400,000 people are injured in distraction-related crashes every year.
  • 3,138 people were killed nationwide (2020).
  • 29 distracted driving crashes resulted in 32 fatalities in Wisconsin (2020).
  • The true numbers are likely much higher due to underreporting.

Distracted driving is especially dangerous for people walking, biking or otherwise outside of a vehicle. According to NHTSA, nearly one in five distracted driving deaths were non-motorists.

Smartphone Use

Drivers that use cell phones while behind the wheel are up to four times as likely to be involved in a crash. Further, research shows that hands-free cell phones offer no significant safety benefits over handheld phones—hands-free is not risk free.

AAA research continues to reveal a strong 'do as I say, not as I do' attitude towards distracted driving and many other driving activities/behaviors. About a quarter of drivers report typing or sending a text message or email and more than 1 in 3 report reading a text or email while driving in the past month.

According to federal crash data, 12.3% of distraction-affected crashes involved confirmed use of a smartphone. This represents roughly 1% of all fatal crashes, which underscores that while smartphone use is most frequently blamed for driver distraction, there are many other causes of distraction-affected crashes.

What Can Drivers Do?

  • Fully focus on driving. Do not let anything divert your attention, actively scan the road, use your mirrors and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Put aside your electronic distractions. Don't use cell phones while driving – handheld or hands-free – except in absolute emergencies. Never use text messaging, email functions, video games or the internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.
  • Make adjustments before you get underway. Address vehicle systems like your GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time.
  • Ask your passengers for help with navigation or other functions, so you can focus safely on driving.
  • Pull off the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place, if another activity demands your attention. To avoid temptation, power down or stow devices before heading out.
  • As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it's a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while behind the wheel.

Attentive Drivers Will Spot Roadside Workers and First Responders

Distracted driving also endangers the lives of AAA tow providers and other emergency responders. An average of 24 emergency responders are struck and killed by a vehicle - while working on the roadside - every year. An attentive driver is more likely to notice an emergency worker on the roadside and move over. Not only is that the law, but it saves lives.

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