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That call or text can wait: Driver distraction can last the length of three football fields

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Mon, Apr 1st 2019 02:10 pm

AAA urges drivers to put down their phone and avoid distractions on the road

Guest Editorial by AAA of Western and Central New York

Your eyes are on the road and your hands are on the wheel, but are you still distracted?

Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after drivers use voice-based technology to dial, change music or send a text message. At 25 mph, drivers travel the length of nearly three football fields during this time. AAA urges drivers to put down their phone and avoid distractions when behind the wheel, especially now during April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“Most drivers believe that if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel, then they are focused on driving,” said Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations at AAA Western and Central New York. “But research proves that there are hidden dangers when using a cellphone or in-vehicle technology. Mental distractions last longer than you think and can cause a dangerous crash.”

Additional research also shows drivers talking on a cellphone are up to four times as likely to crash while those who text are up to eight times as likely to be involved in a crash. Despite the risk, drivers increasingly report using technology behind the wheel. Nearly half (49 percent) of drivers report recently talking on a hand-held phone while driving and nearly 35 percent have sent a text or email.

This behavior is in contradiction to the fact that nearly 58 percent of drivers say talking on a cellphone behind the wheel is a very serious threat to their personal safety, while 78 percent believe that texting is a significant danger.

“We have created a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ culture on our roadways. Drivers understand the risk, they just don’t think they are the problem,” Carey said. “With more than 3,400 people killed in distracted driving crashes each year, it is time for drivers to be accountable.”

AAA is committed to helping drivers curb distracting behaviors behind the wheel. Any task that takes your eyes or attention off the road or hands off the wheel can present a dangerous risk. That includes changing the radio, programming navigation or even enjoying a sandwich. In order to avoid distraction, AAA recommends:

•Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated. The consequences could be the same: Put aside electronic distractions and never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.

•Know where you’re going: Pre-program your GPS and adjust seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before putting the car in motion.

•Secure Items: Properly secure children and pets and store loose possessions and other items that could roll around in the car.

•Snack Smart: Avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage.

To learn more about the AAA Foundation’s research on how vehicle manufacturer’s in-vehicle technology, including Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto systems, can create dangerous distractions for drivers behind the wheel, visit AAA.com/distraction.

About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.

As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 880,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.

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