AAA kicks off distracted driving awareness campaign

Distracted Driving

© Andrey Popov

To combat the serious threat that distracted driving poses to drivers on Virginia roadways, AAA launched a new, multi-year initiative today that aims to prevent deaths and injuries as a result of cell phone use by drivers.

The campaign was kicked-off at the fourth annual VCU Police Department’s – Distracted Driving Safety Fair, an event designed to educate students about the consequences of not paying attention while driving.

“Don’t Drive Intoxicated – Don’t Drive Intexticated” is the theme of AAA’s multimedia traffic safety education campaign created to make distracted driving as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving.

New public service announcements (PSAs) are designed to help audiences understand that the consequences of using a smartphone while driving are the same as drinking and driving. The campaign targets drivers who would never consider drinking a beer behind the wheel, and yet, regularly engage with mobile devices that dangerously take their eyes, hands and minds off the road.

AAA recognizes the impact that more than 50 years of public education efforts against alcohol-impaired driving have had across the country. Those campaigns helped to achieve changes to alcohol-impaired driving laws, increased enforcement, and, critically, a shift in public attitudes and behaviors toward drinking and driving. Although much more still needs to be done, anti-drunk driving campaigns and related efforts have helped cut the number of alcohol-impaired crash fatalities in half since the 1980s, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“AAA has made traffic safety a priority since 1921, working to make roads, vehicles and drivers safer,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager Public and Government Affairs for AAA. “Through this latest initiative, AAA is committed to changing attitudes and behaviors surrounding the deadly problem of distracted driving, and we will continue this effort for years to come.”

The launch of the program at the VCU Police Department’s – Distracted Driving Safety Fair provided the opportunity for the campaign messages to reach a critical driving population: young drivers who are among those at the greatest risk behind the wheel.  “VCU Police is partnering with AAA on this launch because we know college students heavily rely on their cell phones, but they don’t always consider the serious, lifelong repercussions of using phones while driving,” said Chief John Venuti, VCU Police Department. “Our hope is that through interactive exhibits, listening to survivor testimonies and talking with our safety partners, our students will see why they shouldn’t use their phones at all while driving. The consequences can be deadly.”

New research released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that even though 97 percent of drivers say texting/emailing while driving is a serious or very serious threat to their safety, 45 percent admit to having read a text or email while driving in the past month, and 35 percent admit to having typed one. AAA’s sobering new message makes it clear that the consequences of both alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving are the same – deaths and injuries.

A AAA survey last month (March 2019) of Virginia drivers revealed the following thoughts and opinions on distracted driving:

  • 75 percent of Virginia drivers notice MORE drivers distracted by electronic devices than two years ago.
  • 73 percent strongly agree that the dangers of using a Smartphone for texting, emailing and social media can be as serious as drinking and driving.
  • 63 percent are very concerned about their safety on the road due to other drivers being distracted by electronic devices. (93 percent very or somewhat concerned).
  • 73 percent feel that is never okay to use a Smartphone for texting, emailing, or social media while driving.
  • 62% never look at their phone to read or send a text while driving
  • How often do Virginia respondents always use hands-free technology (like Bluetooth or voice-activated calling) while driving:
    • 18 percent always
    • 12 percent often
    • 11 percent sometimes
    • 21 percent rarely
    • 37 percent rarely
  • 35% put Smartphone away where it can’t be accessed while driving.

Campaign messages will appear as public service announcements, on social media (using the hashtag #DontDriveIntexticated), at special events, in the AAA member magazine, and in local AAA retail offices. The messages will also be incorporated into continuing AAA traffic safety programs offered in local communities.

Distracted driving kills an average of nine people and injures 1,000 each day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is the third leading driver-related cause of crash fatalities behind speeding and driving under the influence, and these numbers likely underestimate the problem because most drivers do not admit to distracting cell phone use after a crash. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has conducted numerous studies regarding distracted driving that demonstrate:

  • Drivers interacting with cell phones to perform tasks like texting or surfing the Internet are two to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash.
  • Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of being involved in a crash.
  • 59 percent of all teen crashes involve some form of driver inattention, and 12 percent of teen crashes involve cell phone use.

AAA encourages all motorists to eliminate distracted driving by following these tips:

  • Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
  • Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
  • Pull over. If you have to call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
  • Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
  • Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
  • Don’t be a distraction.  Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
  • Everyone should prevent being intexticated. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.

The public is invited to take the Don’t Drive Intexticated pledge.  Visit www.aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted to join this lifesaving effort.

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