By AAA of Western and Central New York
Distracted driving is dangerous, claiming 2,841 lives in 2018 alone. Among those killed: 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians and 77 bicyclists, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Typically, National Distracted Driving Awareness Month is held in April, and many organizations are using it to raise awareness. While the National Safety Council is postponing its observation of the month, AAA is calling for drivers to keep their eyes and attention on the road and hands on the wheel. Even with a limited number of motorists out on the road due to the pandemic, every driver must be vigilant when operating a vehicle. With families looking to take a country ride to relieve cabin fever, drivers need to be aware of the dangers of distraction.
“No distraction is ever worth the loss of life on the roadway,” said Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations at AAA Western and Central New York. “These senseless deaths can easily be prevented if drivers simply choose to focus on the core task of driving.”
Despite the majority of drivers considering distraction to be a threat to their personal safety, many continue to use handheld devices while driving. On a recent, nationally representative survey, 52% of respondents reported talking on a handheld cellphone while driving in the past 30 days, while 41% reported reading texts or emails, and 32% reported typing texts or emails while driving (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2019). While it is generally acknowledged distracted driving is underreported, it is clear drivers on the road are engaging in non-driving related tasks.
Contrary to what some drivers may think, hands-free, handheld and in-vehicle technologies are not distraction-free, even if a driver’s eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel.
While the number of reported distracted driving incidents is on the decline (2,841 lives in 2018, 3,166 lives in 2017, according to NHTSA), as a safety advocate, AAA would like to see more lives saved. Raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving is the best line of defense to save lives.
Driving is a complex task that requires a driver’s full attention. AAA cautions drivers to put down their phones and other electronic gadgets. Never use text-messaging, email functions, video games or the internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle. And designate a passenger to answer incoming calls or texts.
While AAA Western and Central New York driver education classes and instruction are on hold due to the pandemic, this is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of online driver education courses. Defensive driving courses are available online and are eligible for an insurance reduction. AAA “License To Learn” online classes are available, but students must call AAA to register in advance at 800-836-2582, option 2.
As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 887,000 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.