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AAA shares tips to keep drivers focused on the road during Distracted Driving Awareness Month
By AAA of Western and Central New York
Distracted driving is deadly, claiming 3,142 lives in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In 2020, distracted driving contributed to 8.1% of the 38,824 lives lost to crashes on U.S. roadways, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In New York state alone, 110 people died in 2019 as a result of distracted driving.
AAA believes no life is worth losing to distraction. Focused drivers save lives. AAA urges all drivers to pay attention and focus on the road during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and all year long.
“Nationwide, distracted driving claims nine lives every day,” said Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations. “There is no text message worth reading or sending when injuring or killing someone is the potential cost. AAA is urging drivers to put the phone away.”
Research by AT&T shows attitudes toward the dangers of distracted driving are softening. More than 95% of those surveyed consider smartphone distracted driving to be dangerous, but 9 in 10 people admit to doing it anyway. The research also shows that 7 in 10 drivers say their smartphone has become essential for getting around. Video watching, video chatting, and playing games while driving doubled compared to six years ago, and more than 30% of drivers have admitted to doing at least one of the actions while behind the wheel.
The smartphone activities drivers dangerously conduct behind the wheel are: reading texts, emails or social media (68%); typing texts, emails or social media posts (60%); watching videos/view pictures (54%); playing games (38%) and other activities.
Distractions include more than texting. Anything that diverts attention from driving – eating and drinking, adjusting the navigation, picking your next podcast, talking to other passengers, or talking or texting on the phone – can result in a fatal injury.
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 task of driving. Looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash.
Here are 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.
√ Don’t drive intoxicated. Don’t drive intexticated. The consequences of alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving 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. 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.
Every year, AAA partners works in conjunction with the New York State Police, AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, and other community groups to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. AAA’s driver training program is focused on teaching drivers good habits and warning them of the dangers of distracted driving through instruction.
AAA has long been an advocate for traffic safety awareness, research, and public service announcements to help keep the public carefully informed. Resources include driving refresher courses, distracted driving initiatives like "Intexticated," and tailored driving safety advice for teens and seniors.
Violating New York State’s distracted driving laws can be costly. Know before you go. According to the DMV, using a hand-held device while driving (texting, composing emails, using the mobile telephone, playing games, etc.) in New York results in:
•Fines of $50-$200 for the first offense
√ If a second offense occurs within 18 months, the maximum increases to $250. If a third (or more) offense occurs, $450
•5 violation points added to license
•Suspension of driver license or permit for 120 days
For more information, visit AAA.com/dontdrivedistracted.
As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 862,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.