April 5, 2021 – As traffic begins to pick up across the country with increased vaccinations and decreased pandemic restrictions, AAA reminds drivers about the importance of focusing on the road ahead and not on their smartphones during National Distracted Driving Awareness month.
This year, AAA continues its distracted driving prevention initiative titled “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” The goal of the multi-year, multi-media campaign is to remind drivers that the consequences of both alcohol-impaired driving and smartphone use behind the wheel could be the same – crashes that result in deaths and injuries.
To further communicate this message, AAA is releasing a new television public service announcement (PSA) that targets drivers who text while they are stopped at a red light or stop sign and highlights the “hangover effect” delay in which the mind stays distracted after interacting with a cell phone or technology.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019 distracted driving crashes killed 3,142 people in the United States, an average of 9 deaths per day. That number was up 10 percent from the year before (2,839 deaths in 2018).
In Ohio, there were 41 fatal crashes in 2019 as a result of distracted driving, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol. There were 49 individuals killed as a result of those 41 crashes.
In February, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reaffirmed his commitment to improving safety on Ohio's roads by strengthening Ohio's distracted driving law with the “Hands-Free Ohio” proposal. Ohio is one of four states in the country without primary enforcement laws for adult drivers using wireless devices for text-based communications or any other purpose. Currently, using a wireless device to write, send, or read a text-based communication while driving is a secondary offense for adult drivers.
The proposal would make driving while handling any electronic wireless device a primary offense for adult drivers and would increase fines for drivers who habitually use devices while driving. In cases where a driver using a device causes serious injury or death, the penalties will mirror those of drunken driving.
Additionally, the proposal will allow a six-month warning period in which law enforcement would issue warnings instead of citations in order to educate the public on the dangers of distracted driving.
“AAA commends Gov. Mike DeWine for taking steps to make Ohio’s roads safer by requesting legislation to address distracted driving and providing law enforcement the necessary tools to enforce a law that stops drivers from using handheld devices behind the wheel,” says AAA Public Affairs Manager, Cindy Antrican. “While this is a huge step forward, motorists need to remember that hands-free isn’t risk- free and should aim to eliminate all distractions from their vehicles.”
Distracted driving remains a growing traffic safety problem according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index. The survey found most drivers (96 percent) believe typing or reading on a hand-held cellphone while driving to be very or extremely dangerous, but 39 percent admit to reading and 29 percent admit to typing on a smartphone at least once while behind the wheel within the last month.
Even though using a hand-held device is illegal while driving and while stopped at a red light or stop sign in many states, the survey suggests some drivers do so anyway and aren’t aware of the “hangover effect,” which comes from interacting with technology while on the road. In a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers found drivers can experience a “hangover effect” where the mind stays distracted for up to 27 seconds after using smartphones or voice-to-text vehicle infotainment systems to send text messages, make phone calls or update social media.
“Even if drivers perform some of these tasks while parked, or stopped at a red light, once you start moving, and even after you stop using the technology, your mind is still not fully focused on the task of driving for up to 27 seconds,” continues Antrican. “This is a dangerous situation that could lead to inattention blindness, where you’re looking at the road but not seeing what’s in front of you, putting other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians at risk.”
AAA encourages all motorists to eliminate distracted driving by following these tips:
- Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
- Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
- Pull over. If you must call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
- Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
- Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
- Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
- Activate Do Not Disturb. Setting up this feature on iPhone or Android device will prevent calls from coming in while you’re driving.
- Everyone should prevent being intexticated. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.
For more information and to take the pledge to not drive while distracted visit aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted.
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 61 million members nationwide and nearly two and a half million members in Ohio. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a non-stock, non-profit corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.AAA.com.