distracted driving lawHamilton, NJ – April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 3,179 people were killed (10% of all crash fatalities) and an additional 431,000 were injured (18% of all crash injuries) in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2014. Recent AAA studies find that 87 percent of drivers report engaging in risky behaviors while behind the wheel and aren’t aware of how long distractions last.

Distracted driving is considered any activity, such as grooming, eating, or the most-widely used texting that diverts a driver from focusing on the road. While April is recognized as National Distracted Driving month, AAA Mid-Atlantic urges drivers to put the cellphones down in the car not only in April, but all year.  

In a study released earlier this year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports a majority of drivers are driving distracted and are unaware of how long these distractions linger:

  • 87 percent of drivers admit to risky behaviors behind the wheel, including distracted driving
  • 2 in 3 drivers admitted to talking on a cell phone while driving
  • 2 in 5 drivers said they have read a text message or email while driving
  • 1 in 3 admit to typing or sending a text or email

“Texting and driving requires motorists to take their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the task of driving. This is a recipe for a crash, and that’s a scary thought,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Your life and the lives of others you share the road with, depend on and deserve your full attention. Put the phone down.”

AAA research has found that the cognitive distraction of a conversation and using technology is more dangerous than first thought, and may distract drivers up to 27 seconds after they hang up the phone.  AAA Mid-Atlantic’s survey showed New Jersey drivers are unaware of just how long the technology hangover can last, impacting their driving behaviors and the safety of others on the road.

“Even though drivers are using hands-free technology to perform tasks, they are still distracted to the point where driving becomes dangerous,” Noble added.  “The reality is that mental distractions can affect driver attention far longer than they realize and that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.”

AAA Survey of New Jersey Drivers

AAA Mid-Atlantic recently conducted a telephone survey of 655 New Jersey motorists asking about their driving habits.

“One of the most surprising results was that a near unanimous number of New Jersey respondents (94%) said they believe other drivers are very or somewhat distracted when using either a hand-held phone or a hands-free device to talk or text,” says Noble. “Even so, 28 percent admitted using a hand-held device although it is against New Jersey law, while 50 percent admitted using a hands-free device to make a call.”

Additionally:

  • 94 percent thought other drivers were very or somewhat distracted while using either a hand held or hands-free device
  • 69 percent DON’T use hand held phone
  • 68 percent believe that distraction only lasts for 10 seconds. However, the recent AAA Foundation study proved that driver distraction could last for up to 27 seconds. 
  • 28 percent have used hand held phone in last six months even though New Jersey law bans the use of hand held devices while driving.
  • 50 percent have used hands-free cell phone to make calls in the last six months
  • 57 percent think voice activated technology is less distracting than hand held cell phone use
  • 38 percent reported using voice-activated technology

Tips for Safe Driving

  • As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while you’re behind the wheel.
  • Store loose gear, possessions or other distractions that could roll around in the car so you don’t feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.
  • Put aside your electronic devices. DO NOT use cellphones while driving – handheld or hands-free – except in absolute emergencies.
  • Make vehicle adjustments before you begin your trip – address vehicle systems like GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems – before hitting the road.