Ditch Distractions Behind the Wheel

AAA Mid States

Distracted driving can have dire consequences. More than 3,100 people were killed in the U.S. as a result of distracted driving in 2019, according to the National Highway for Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Drivers are confronted with a steady stream of distractions – vehicle navigation and entertainment systems, cell phones, passenger conversations, eating and drinking, and more. Anything that takes the driver’s attention away from driving can be dangerous. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distraction “latency” can last up to 27 seconds, meaning that even after drivers put down the phone or stop fiddling with the navigation system, their mind isn’t fully engaged with the task of driving.

Drivers spend more than half their time focused on things other than driving. Some distractions can’t be avoided, but most can be managed by taking steps to maintain focus while you’re driving.

Teens should be especially mindful of distracted driving. Not only do teens have the highest crash rates per mile driven, but they are also among the drivers most impaired by distraction.

Here are some tips to minimize distraction while driving:

Focus on driving. Actively scan the road for hazards, use your mirrors, and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.

Never text and drive. According to NHTSA, texting is the most concerning distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. Texting while driving has been banned in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

Pull off the road. If you must make a call, return a text, or do anything else that would take your attention off the road, find a safe spot and pull over.

Get set before you go. Plug your destination into your GPS and adjust your seats, mirrors, music, and climate control before you step on the gas.

Don’t eat or drink while driving. Eating and drinking can take your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road. If possible, eat meals or snacks before or after your trip, not while driving.

Let passengers give you a hand. If something is distracting to you, ask a passenger to take care of it, so you can focus on driving.

Settle children and pets before getting underway. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely to care for them. Reaching into the backseat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.

Don’t dress and drive. Finish personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.


April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Participate in the fight to end distracted driving by making your voices heard and take a pledge to stay focused and avoid distractions while driving. Teens are influential with their peers, so speak up when you see a friend driving distracted. Parents, lead by example – never drive distracted – and talk to your young driver about all the responsibilities that come with driving. Get involved in the community by supporting local laws, speaking at community meetings, and emphasizing the dangers of distracted driving on social media.