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April is Distracted Driver Awareness Month

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AAA urges drivers to put down their phone and avoid distractions when behind the wheel, especially during April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“When drivers are distracted, it puts everyone on the road in danger,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “A simple text, phone call, or even eating a sandwich while behind the wheel, can all have deadly consequences. AAA urges motorists to focus on driving. Avoid anything that takes your attention off-the-road and hands off-the-wheel.”

Distracted Driving Crash Data:

· Nearly 20,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver, from 2012-2017 (NHTSA).

· There were 3,166 people killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2017 (NHTSA).

· In Florida, there were more than 49,000 distracted driving-related crashes in 2017, resulting in 214 deaths (FHSMV).

Common Driver Distractions include phone calls or texting, speech-to-text or virtual assistants, programming or referencing GPS, adjusting music or controls, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, handling children or pets and applying makeup.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Research:

· Drivers who text are up to eight times as likely to be involved in a crash. Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. At 55 mph, that is equivalent to driving the entire length of a football field, blind.

· Drivers talking on a cellphone are up to four times as likely to be in a crash.

· Although hands-free, voice-based technology still causes distractions, drivers can be mentally distracted for as long as 27 seconds after using voice-based technology to dial, change music or send a text message. At 25 mph, drivers travel the length of nearly three football fields during this time.

“Most drivers believe that if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel, then they are focused on the drive,” Jenkins said. “But research proves that there are hidden dangers when using a cell phone or in-vehicle technology. Mental distractions last longer than you think and can cause a dangerous crash.”

Despite the risk, drivers increasingly report using their phones while behind the wheel. Nearly half (49 percent) of drivers report recently talking on a hand-held phone while driving. Nearly 35 percent have sent a text or email.

This behavior is in contradiction to the fact that nearly 58 percent of drivers say talking on a cellphone behind the wheel is a very serious threat to their personal safety, while 78 percent believe that texting is a significant danger.

Teen drivers face a troubling combination of both distraction and inexperience. It takes about five years of experience before teens reach the skill level of most drivers. According to NHTSA, six out of 10 teen crashes involve driver distraction. In 2017, 297 people died in crashes involving distracted teen drivers. Visit teendriving.aaa.com for key tips for parents.

AAA Tips for Avoiding Distractions:

· Don’t text and drive. Put aside electronic distractions and never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.

· Know where you’re going. Pre-program your GPS and adjust seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before putting the car in motion.

· Secure Items. Properly secure children and pets and store loose possessions and other items that could roll around in the car.

· Snack Smart. Avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage.

Pledge to Drive Distraction-Free—As part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, AAA – The Auto Club Group is partnering with The Hertz Corporation on a campaign that encourages motorists to evaluate their driving habits. People who visit AAA.com and take the pledge to drive distraction-free will receive a discount on their next Hertz car rental.

To learn more about the AAA Foundation’s research on how vehicle manufacturer’s in-vehicle technology, including Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto systems, can create dangerous distractions for drivers behind the wheel, visit AAA.com/distraction.