COLUMBUS —Distracted driving tops drivers’ list of dangers on the road, as a growing number of drivers admit to using mobile phones behind the wheel, despite knowing the risks.
To improve safety during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, and all year long, AAA is calling for drivers to keep their eyes and attention on the road and hands on the wheel.
Eighty-eight percent of drivers believe distracted driving is on the rise, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s latest Traffic Safety Culture Index survey. Nearly 50 percent report regularly seeing drivers emailing or texting while driving.
Drivers are more concerned about distracted driving than other risky behaviors, including aggressive driving, drivers using drugs and drunk driving. Their concerns are well founded, as a look back at past AAA Foundation surveys reveals a disturbing trend regarding mobile phone use while driving:
Nearly all (96.8 percent) drivers say texting or emailing while driving is a serious threat, yet, since 2013, the proportion of drivers who admit to reading a text or email while driving has risen 30.5 percent and the proportion of drivers who admit to sending a text or email while driving has risen 36 percent.
Nearly 88 percent of drivers say talking on a cell phone while driving is a serious threat, but the proportion of drivers who report using a cell phone behind the wheel has risen 46 percent since 2003.
“There is a disconnect between what drivers do and what they believe,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “While most recognize the dangers created by taking your eyes off the road, they engage in distracting behaviors anyway – creating a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ culture on the roadway.”
A recent AAA Foundation study shows talking on a cell phone while driving increases crash risk by up to four times, and texting or emailing while driving increases crash risk by up to eight times.
Despite the risks, distracted driving is one of the most underreported traffic safety issues. Federal estimates indicate distraction contributes to 14 percent of all crashes. However, past AAA Foundation research determined distraction was a factor in 58 percent of teen driver crashes – 44 percent more than federal estimates.
“With more than 37,000 deaths on U.S. roads in 2016, we need to continue finding ways to limit driving distractions and improve traffic safety,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The Foundation’s work offers insight on drivers’ attitudes toward traffic safety and their behaviors, so we can better understand the issue and identify potential countermeasures to reduce crashes.”
Driving is a complex task that requires a driver’s full attention. Drivers who use in-vehicle technologies, like voice-based and touch screen features, can be distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending a text message, according to AAA Foundation research.
• To avoid distractions, drivers should:
• Put aside electronic distractions: Never use text messaging, email, video gaming or internet functions – including those built into the vehicle – while driving.
• Prepare to drive: Program the GPS and adjust seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before driving.
• Secure the cabin: Properly secure children and pets, and store loose possessions and other items that could roll around in the car.
• Snack smart: Avoid eating messy foods while driving.