It drives me insane when I see people using their phones while driving.
I didn’t start driving until I was 25, with a preschooler and an infant, so I’ve always been hyper-aware that I’m operating a potentially life-threatening machine with precious cargo on board. But as careful a driver I might try to be (I do admit to being a compulsive radio station changer, but from the steering wheel), I can’t control other drivers, and that scares me literally every time I pull out of my driveway. And I’m serious when I say if you’re not also scared, you should be.
Here’s some stats and facts from AAA Mid-Atlantic. Pass them on, to your young drivers especially, and please drive safely.
Distracted Driving Awareness Month Highlights Continuous Problem on the Roads
In Delaware, there were 578 cell phone related crashes from 2011-2014
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.
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 Jim Lardear, Director of Public and Government Affairs 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.”
In a recent AAA Mid-Atlantic poll, nearly 67 percent of Delaware motorists believe a driver’s brain is only distracted for up to 10 seconds when completing an in-vehicle task like tuning the radio or dialing a phone while driving. However, the AAA foundation for Traffic Safety reports unsafe mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands. At the 25 MPH speed limit used in the study, drivers traveled the length of nearly three football fields during this time.
The Delaware Office of Highway Safety reports that there were 587 cell phone related crashes in Delaware between 2011 and 2014. Crashes involving cell phones increase around lunchtime and continues to increase with a sharp increase during the evening rush hour. Between 2012 and 2015, 62 percent of cell phone related crashes occurred in New Castle County, 16 percent in Kent and 22 percent in Sussex.
“While drivers (91%) in Delaware believe other drivers are very distracted or somewhat distracted when using either a hand-held phone or a hands-free device to talk or text, 36 percent of those same drivers admit to using a voice-activated technology to make a phone call, send a text message or change radio stations while driving,” notes Lardear. “They know the dangers of distracted driving, but continue to do so anyway.”
Using a cell phone while driving to text, call or check email isn’t the only distraction drivers face while in the car. Eating and drinking, talking to passengers, using a navigation system, adjusting the radio, CD player, MP3 player and grooming all serve as distractions.
Delaware’s hands free cell phone law has been in effect since 2011 and bans all drivers from using hand held cell phones, pagers, PDAs, blackberries, laptops, games or portable computers while driving. Drivers are not allowed to talk without using a hands-free device, read, write or send text messages, email or use the Internet while operating a motor vehicle. Since the law was passed in 2011, more than 64,000 drivers have been issued citations in Delaware.
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.
AAA Mid-Atlantic is based in Wilmington and serves nearly 140,000 Delaware members and nearly four million members in New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia, with personal insurance, financial, automotive and travel services through more than 60 retail branches, Car Care Insurance Travel Centers, regional operations centers and the internet, at AAA.com.