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ABINGDON, MD (Saturday, April 6, 2019) – With National Distracted Driving Awareness Month underway, AAA Mid-Atlantic today announced an important traffic safety campaign at the new AAA Car Care Insurance and Travel Center in Abingdon. Joined by the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Harford County Councilman Curtis Beulah, traffic safety advocates and local officials, AAA kicked off the “Don’t Drive Intoxicated- Don’t Drive Intexticated” campaign, a new, multi-year initiative that aims to reduce deaths and injuries as a result of cell phone use by drivers.
“Don’t Drive Intoxicated—Don’t Drive Intexticated” seeks to make distracted driving as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving. It targets drivers who would never consider getting behind the wheel after drinking a beer or any other alcoholic beverage and, yet, will regularly use mobile devices while driving, dangerously taking their eyes and minds off the road.
The word “intexticated” is, of course, a play on the word “intoxicated.” And as such, the “Don’t Drive Intoxicated—Don’t Drive Intexticated” campaign links the impact of drinking and driving with distracted driving. Both are comparably dangerous and deadly, research shows. Both alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving kill and injure drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists. In fact, research shows that a person using a cellphone while driving is four times as likely to be involved in a crash as drivers who are not.
“Whether it’s texting, calling, navigating or something else, using your cellphone can be dangerous while driving. Nothing you have to say or write is so important that it justifies jeopardizing the lives of others on the roadway,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
Distracted driving kills an average of nine people and injures 1,000 each day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is the third leading driver-related cause of crash fatalities behind speeding and driving under the influence. In addition, these numbers likely underestimate the problem because most drivers do not admit to distracting cell phone use after a crash.
There were over 56,000 crashes involving a distracted driver in Maryland in 2017, according to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration’s Highway Safety Office. “Distracted driving is dangerous and deadly - a reported factor in crashes that steal 200 lives in Maryland each year,” said Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) State Highway Administrator Greg Slater. “We appreciate AAA's focus on texting and driving - an act that too often has the same deadly consequences as drunk driving. As partners, our mission is to raise awareness of safe driving behaviors to prevent crashes and save lives.”
According to NHTSA, “nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the crash event.” Combatting distracted driving through greater enforcement and education will protect all motorists.
Harford County Sheriff, Jeffrey Gahler said, “Taking your attention away from the road, for a just one second can cost you, others sharing the road, and your family a lifetime of heartache and pain. Ask yourself; is that one text worth a life?”
Sadly, Highway Safety Advocate, Russell Hurd and his family know all too well the pain a distracted driver can cause a family. On January 3, 2008, Heather Hurd, Russell’s daughter, a Harford County native, who attended Harford Community College and Towson University was killed in Orlando, Florida, when she and her fiancé, Patrick, were struck by the distracted driver of a tractor-trailer, who plowed into their vehicle and eight others at a high speed as they sat at a red light. They were driving to meet a Disney wedding planner and Heather’s parents, Russell and Kim, who were in Florida for the holidays.
“Distracted driving has long since reached epidemic proportions in our country and is needlessly killing and injuring tens of thousands each and every year. Awareness and education campaigns such as AAA Mid-Atlantic's ‘Don't Drive Intoxicated. Don't Drive Intexticated.’ will surely reach thousands and it is our hope that efforts such as this will save others the same fate as our Heather and our family,” said Russell Hurd.
In Maryland, all drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone without a Hands Free Device while operating a motor vehicle. The fine for a first offense is $40 and subsequent offenses $100. The law is a secondary offense, meaning that a driver must first be committing a primary offense such as speeding or reckless driving before they are ticketed for a cell phone offense. Texting laws prohibit a person from using a text-messaging device to write, send, or read a text or electronic message while operating a motor vehicle.
Despite strong laws on the books, violations persist. “On any given day, our deputies witness people driving and using cell phones. It is alarming to me, to see how many people disregard this law,” Sheriff Gahler added. “To help educate Harford County citizens, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office dedicates time and resources to multiple initiative including, STAR- Student safe driving campaign, DUI checkpoints, a dedicated Traffic Task Force, leadership of the Traffic Safety Advisory Committee, and creation of the first localized Highway Safety Plan in the State.”
New research released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that even though 97 percent of drivers say texting/emailing while driving is a serious or very serious threat to their safety, 45 percent admit to having read a text or email while driving in the past month, and 35 percent admit to having typed one. AAA’s sobering new message makes it clear that the consequences of both alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving are the same – deaths and injuries.
A new AAA survey* conducted last month of more than 700 adult Maryland drivers revealed the following thoughts and opinions on distracted driving:
“Decades of public education efforts against alcohol-impaired driving have helped reduce by one-half the number of alcohol-impaired crash fatalities since the 1980s, according to the National Institute of Health,” Averella said. “Similarly, traffic safety advocates believe that we can make a difference to limit or stop texting and emailing behind the wheel with increased public awareness of the traffic safety dangers distracted driving poses.”
AAA encourages all motorists to eliminate distracted driving by following these tips:
“AAA has made traffic safety a priority since 1921, working to make roads, vehicles and drivers safer,” said Averella. “Through this latest initiative, we are committed to changing attitudes and behaviors surrounding the deadly problem of distracted driving, and we will continue this effort for years to come.”
Pledge now. The multi-faceted “Don’t Drive Intoxicated—Don’t Drive Intexticated” traffic safety campaign is crafted to empower people change their behavior. For this reason, AAA Mid-Atlantic is encouraging the motoring public to take the pledge to prevent distracted driving. Drivers can go online at AAA.com/DontDriveDistracted to join us in our pledge to not drive intexticated. Pledge cards are also available at AAA retail centers and Car Care Centers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
Campaign messages will appear as public service announcements, on social media (using the hashtag #DontDriveIntexticated), at special events, in the AAA member magazine, and in AAA Mid-Atlantic retail stores and Car Care Insurance and Travel Centers. The messages will also be incorporated into continuing AAA traffic safety programs offered in local communities.
Watch the PSAs here:
* The AAA poll was conducted on March 14-15, 2019 by Public Policy Polling, on behalf of AAA Club Alliance. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.9%. All 700 Maryland respondents were 18 years or older with a valid U.S. driver's license.
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