Are You ‘Intexticated?’–AAA launches initiative to reduce deadly distracted driving

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

AAA South Dakota is launching a new, multi-year initiative that aims to reduce deaths and injuries as a result of cell phone use by drivers. The theme is “Don’t Drive Intoxicated – Don’t Drive Intexticated.” The multimedia campaign was created to make distracted driving socially unacceptable.

The educational traffic safety messages are designed to help audiences understand 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 South Dakota 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.

Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA South Dakota Marilyn Buskohl says 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. She says 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 more than 600 South Dakota drivers revealed the following thoughts and opinions on distracted driving:

•68 percent said they notice more drivers distracted by electronic devices now than two years ago.

•90 percent said they are “concerned” or “very concerned” about their safety on the road due to other drivers being distracted by electronic devices.

•78 percent “think that it’s never okay” to use a smart phone for texting, emailing or social media while driving.

•When asked how often they look at their phones to read or send a text while driving, 3 percent responded “regularly, 4 percent said “fairly often,” 42 replied “rarely” and 51 percent said they “never” did so.

•50 percent said they “always” or “often” put their smart phone away where it cannot be accessed while driving.

•89 percent “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” that the dangers of using a smart phone for texting, emailing and social media can be as serious as drinking and driving.

•57 percent of respondents “rarely” or “never” use hands-free technology such as Bluetooth or voice-activated calling.

•When asked about the existing South Dakota law banning texting while driving and whether survey participants would support or oppose a law in South Dakota banning hand-held cell phone use while driving:

  • 64 percent said they would support
  • 19 percent said they would oppose
  • 17 percent said they are not sure

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.