Hamilton, NJ – April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nationwide an estimated 3,477 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.

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.  

AAA’s annual Traffic Safety Culture Index (TSCI) released earlier this year, finds that young millennials are the riskiest drivers, with 2 in 3 drivers admitting to talking on a cell phone while driving.

Texting While Driving

  • Drivers ages 19-24 were 1.6 times as likely as all drivers to report having read a text message or e-mail while driving (66.1 percent vs. 40.2 percent).
  • Drivers ages 19-24 were nearly twice as likely as all drivers to report having typed or sent a text message or e-mail while driving (59.3 percent vs. 31.4 percent).

For several years running now, the TSCI has revealed a culture among US drivers of ‘do as I say, not as I do’.  The same drivers who describe texting and other risky behavior as ‘unacceptable’, also admit to engaging in it.

“Alarmingly, some of the drivers ages 19-24 believe that their dangerous driving behavior is acceptable,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “It’s critical that these drivers understand the potentially deadly consequences of engaging in these types of behaviors and that they change their behavior and attitudes in order to reverse the growing number of fatalities on U.S. roads.”

“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,” Noble added. “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. 

A 2016 AAA Mid-Atlantic survey of New Jersey drivers showed that 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 continued.  “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.