Stay focused: AAA offers tips to avoid distracted driving
In Virginia, 120 people died in 23,246 distracted driving crashes in 2019 according to data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
Nationwide, nearly 3,000 people are killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, contributing to the 36,560 lives lost to crashes on U.S. roadways in 2018. AAA urges all drivers to pay attention and focus on the road during this National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and all year long.
“Focused drivers save lives,” said Martha Meade, AAA Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “There is no text message worth reading or sending when injuring or killing someone is the potential cost.”
Starting on January 1, 2021, HB874/SB160 allows for drivers in Virginia to be fined for holding a handheld personal communications device while behind the wheel. The previous law, passed in 2009, only forbid texting and emailing while driving and was difficult for officers to enforce. The HandHeld Personal Device Ban became law on July 1, 2020, but won’t be enforced until January, 2021 to allow for six months of education and public awareness. Fines for a first offense are $125, second and subsequent offenses are $250.
Distractions include more than texting. Anything that diverts attention from driving – eating and drinking, adjusting the navigation, or picking your next podcast, talking to other passengers, or talking or texting on the phone—can result in a fatal injury. Despite what some drivers may think, hands-free is not risk-free. Even with your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, you are not safe unless your mind focuses on the drive. Looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash.
AAA’s on-going “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” campaign aims to make distracted driving socially unacceptable, much like drinking and driving. It was launched in Virginia and several other states last year as AAA continues its longstanding efforts to improve road, vehicle and driver safety.
“We recognize that changing attitudes and behaviors when it comes to distracted driving will take time and a true commitment from all road users,” Meade added.
Here are AAA’s Top Tips to Avoid Distractions While Driving:
- Prepare for your drive. Set vehicle systems like GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time. And please, finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
- Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated. The consequences of alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving could be the same: Put aside electronic distractions and never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving. Stow your smartphone away, turn it to airplane mode, or activate call/text blocking features.
- Stay focused. Do not let anything divert your attention. Be sure to actively scan the road, use your mirrors, and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists. If you have passengers, enlist their help as a “designated texter.” Ask them to answer your calls, respond to texts and program the navigation.