Be alert for and avoid distracted driving

Published 12:16 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In recognition of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, AAA Carolinas is warning motorists to avoid any activities that divert attention from the primary driving task. Numerous distractions exist that could endanger drivers, passengers, or others sharing the road, such as bicyclists or pedestrians.

“While we’ve made some progress in the past few years by raising awareness about risky driving behaviors, distraction continues to be a contributing factor to deaths and injuries on our Carolina roadways,” said Dave Parsons, President and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “We all have a responsibility to avoid dangerous distractions while driving.”

Distractions were responsible for vehicle crashes leading to 3,179 deaths and 431,000 injuries in 2014, according to the most recent data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Driving distractions come in all forms. A few examples are:

  • Texting
  • Using a handheld or hands-free cell phone
  • Conversing with passengers
  • Eating/drinking
  • Using a navigation system (GPS)
  • Personal grooming

The use of electronic devices are among the most well-known and common sources of distraction for drivers. Text messaging behind the wheel is one of the riskiest behaviors a driver can do as it involves manual, visual, and mental distraction simultaneously. Any kind of cell phone use can be risky. There is a public misperception that using a hands-free cell phone reduces risk but research states otherwise.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently completed groundbreaking research finding that mental distraction by itself dangerously affects drivers behind the wheel.  The research showed that hands-free features, increasingly common in new vehicles, are actually among the most mentally distracting. Just because a drivers’ eyes are on the road and hands are on the wheel does not mean that they are safely focusing on driving.

Here are AAA’s top 10 tips to avoid distractions while driving

1. Fully focus on driving and don’t allow any activity to divert your attention. Actively scan the road, use your mirrors and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
2. Store loose items that could roll around in the car, so you don’t feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.
3. Make adjustments before your drive. Address vehicle systems like your GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time.
4. Finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
5. Snack smart. If possible, eat meals or snacks before or after your trip, not while driving.
6. Secure children and pets before getting underway. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely to care for them. Reaching into the back seat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
7.. Don’t use cell phones while driving – handheld or hands-free – except in absolute emergencies. Never use text messaging, email functions, video games or the Internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.
8.If you have passengers, enlist their help so you can focus safely on driving.
9. If another activity demands your attention, instead of trying to attempt it while driving, pull off the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place. To avoid temptation, power down or stow devices before heading out.
10. As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of another activity, it’s a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while driving behind the wheel.