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The Truth About Distracted Driving

Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals contradiction between the perceived dangers of distracted driving and driver behavior.

distracted driving

With so many drivers on the road – all with something blinking, ringing or chatting nearby – it’s important to be wary of distracted driving.

Read on for the latest on the dangers of distracted driving, thanks to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

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Distracted Driving Is a Huge Concern

Distracted driving affects everyone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately nine people are killed, and more than 1,000 are injured every day in the United States in car crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

Distracted driving involves any activity that can cause a driver to take their eyes, hands or mind off of the road, endangering themselves and others. Sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system and eating while driving are a few examples.

A large majority of respondents surveyed for the Traffic Safety Culture Index, conducted annually by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to identify driver attitudes and behaviors, perceived reading (96%) and typing (97%) a text/email as very or extremely dangerous. The concern for these distracted driving behaviors is right up there with drowsy (96%) and drunk or impaired driving (95%).

Should There Be Texting/Talking While Driving Bans?

Most states have a law in place that bans motorists from using mobile devices completely or partially while driving, some stricter than others. A majority of drivers agree with these restrictions, with almost 75% supporting laws against holding and talking on a cellphone behind the wheel, and about 88% for laws against reading, typing, or sending a text or email while driving.

Attitude vs. Behavior

Despite a high number of drivers reporting the perceived danger, risks of arrest and personal/social disapproval of mobile use behind the wheel – and being in favor of distracted driving laws related to handheld devices – many drivers still do not practice what they preach.

More than half of drivers reported to have driven while talking on a handheld cellphone at least once in the past month; 41% of respondents reported to reading a text/email and 32% admitted to typing a text/email.

distracted driving

In-Car Technologies

In a different survey in conjunction with researchers at the University of Utah, AAA evaluated car technology in 40 2017 and 2018 car models. The survey focused on different components of the technology and the amount of time drivers took to complete several tasks. It also focused on the cognitive and mental demands that these technologies required.

The drivers were asked to use voice commands, touch screens and other technologies to call, text and program audio entertainment or navigation while driving.

The research revealed that while built-in car infotainment systems and connected car apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can help cut down on distracted driving activities, they can still take the driver’s eyes off the road for a significant amount of time.

Programming navigation proved to be the most time-consuming task for drivers. The average was 48 seconds for in-car technology and 33 seconds for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A driver traveling at 25 mph goes the length of three football fields during this time.

Distracted driving is a real risk to everyone on the roadways. What do you do to ensure you’re not distracted behind the wheel? Let us know in the comments.

Learn more about the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and their research. 

For questions about how your car insurance can protect you from a distracted driving-related crash, talk to a AAA insurance agent. AAA.com/Insurance

This was post originally published in 2018 and has been updated.

Comments
    • Dana L.

      Hi there!
      Yes, eating behind the wheel is definitely a distraction that AAA cautions against. AAA Northeast President and CEO John Galvin wrote about the dangers of distracted driving – including eating behind the wheel – in a recent column.
      You can also find out more about distracted driving at our website, AAA.com/DistractedDriving.
      Thanks for reading!
      -Dana

  • Michael C.

    What about all the people who drive around with their small dogs on their laps or hanging out the drivers side window in the arms of their owners? In my opinion that is more distracting than most of the other things people do while driving.

    • Maggie M.

      Hi Michael,
      Very good point. Pet owners should be mindful of the pet’s safety as well as their own! Thank you for your feedback! -MM

  • William A.

    I firmly do not use my cell phone at all while driving. If expecting a call, I tell my caller to leave a message, that I DO NOT answer while behind the wheel, and will respond as soon as I can pull to side of road.

    • Maggie M.

      Hi William,
      That is good practice for traffic safety. Most smart phones are equipped to silence notifications while driving, auto-sending a message to the caller/texter that the user is driving. Thank you for the feedback and best practice. -MM

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