April is “Distracted Driving Awareness Month”. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an estimated 3,179 people were killed (10% of all crash fatalities) and an additional 431,000 were injured (18% of all crash injuries) in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2014. Recent AAA studies find that 87 percent of drivers report engaging in risky behaviors while behind the wheel and aren’t aware of how long distractions last.
In a study released earlier this year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports a majority of drivers are driving distracted and are unaware of how long these distractions linger:
- 87 percent of drivers admit to risky behaviors behind the wheel, including distracted driving
- 2 in 3 drivers admitted to talking on a cell phone while driving
- 2 in 5 drivers said they have read a text message or email while driving
- 1 in 3 admit to typing or sending a text or email
In a recent AAA Mid-Atlantic poll, nearly 71 percent of Pennsylvania motorists believe a driver’s brain is only distracted for up to 10 seconds when completing an in-vehicle task like tuning the radio or dialing a phone while driving. However, the AAA foundation for Traffic Safety reports unsafe mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands. At the 25 MPH speed limit used in the study, drivers traveled the length of nearly three football fields during this time.
Using a cell phone while driving to text, call or check email isn’t the only distraction drivers face while in the car. Eating and drinking, talking to passengers, using a navigation system, adjusting the radio, CD player, MP3 player and grooming all serve as distractions.
Pennsylvania’s law against texting while driving took effect March 8, 2012. According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, between the time the law took effect through 2014, more than 3,940 tickets for texting while driving have been issued statewide.