Report: Nine Dead Each Day from Distracted Driving
DENVER (Oct. 1, 2020) - You're behind the wheel, your phone buzzes, and you briefly take your eyes off the road to check your notifications. Harmless, right? Dead wrong: Per research from AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sending or reading a text takes an average of five seconds. At 55 mph, then, you'll have traveled the length of a football field with your eyes off the road.
Little wonder that distracted driving regularly results in devastating consequences. Each year, nearly 3,500 lives are lost to drivers who divert their attention from the road – even for a few seconds. Another 391,000 people are injured, according to NHTSA. All told, distracted driving is the third leading driver-related cause of crash fatalities, behind speeding and driving under the influence.
Why? Using your cell phone is fundamentally incompatible with safe driving – just like drinking. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the nation's leading automotive safety research organization, has found that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of being involved in a crash.
What's more, drivers interacting with cell phones to perform tasks such as texting or surfing the Internet are between two and eight times more likely to be involved in a crash. 43 percent of those involved in a recent crash admit to texting while driving in the past month compared to 27 percent not involved in a crash, and fully 59 percent of all teen crashes involve some form of driver inattention.
“A distracted driver is a lot like an intoxicated one,” said Skyler McKinley, director of public affairs for AAA Colorado. “When a driver’s attention is diverted from the road, their reaction time slows – and lives are jeopardized.”
Take the Pledge to Stay Safe
According to the 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index, nearly 97 percent of drivers believe that texting and driving is very dangerous – and yet, per the same survey, nearly 40 percent admit to having done it in the past 30 days. Why? Fundamentally, smartphone apps "leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines to keep us using their products as much as possible," per Harvard University. If it feels like you've become addicted to your phone, it's because you have.
Luckily, fighting that addiction while behind the wheel is as simple as stowing your smartphone. For Distracted Driving Awareness Month, take the pledge to drive distraction free at AAA.com/StaySafe.
You're in control of how you drive. Your smartphone isn't.
- Prepare for your drive. Set vehicle systems such as GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls, and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time. Mental distractions last longer than you think - up to 27 seconds after dialing, texting or changing the radio station.
- Disable or stow electronics. 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. Learn how at AAA.com/StaySafe.
- 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.
- Pull over. If you have to call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
- 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.
For adult drivers, regular cell phone use for voice calls is permitted and headphones may be worn in one ear for this purpose. Distracted driving is illegal: Adult drivers are prohibited from manual data entry and transmission on a cell phone (i.e., to send a text message or browse the internet) while behind the wheel.
Drivers under 18, meanwhile, are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. The prohibition includes phone calls, text messaging, or similar forms of manual data entry and transmission.
"A single, seconds-long distraction is all it takes to forever change the course of your life," McKinley said. "No life is worth losing to distraction. Pay attention, focus on the road, and put the phone away to save lives this National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and, in fact, all year long."
About AAA – The Auto Club Group
AAA Colorado is a proud part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the second-largest AAA club in North America with more than 14 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Learn more.