Avoiding distractions while driving can be matter of life and death

Distracted driving is more than talking, texting on your phone, AAA says

In Florida, 231 people died in more than 200 documented distracted driving crashes in 2018, according to data from The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

During National Distracted Driving Awareness Month this October, AAA is reminding drivers that distracted driving is more than just talking and texting on your phone.

The top three risky distractions for drivers are using cell phones, using in-vehicle technology and passengers in the vehicle, AAA says

“This is a big deal because every year 400,000 crashes are blamed on distracted driving, resulting in about nearly 3,000 fatalities,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said.

AAA says driving while distracted is one of the most dangerous things drivers can do.

Sobering statistics

  • Looking away from the road for just 2 seconds doubles your risk for a crash.
  • Five seconds of reading an email or text is like driving across a football field while blindfolded.
  • Mental distractions last longer than you think and can cause a dangerous crash or fatality. Mental distraction can last up to 27 seconds after dialing, texting or changing the radio station.
  • New teen drivers are 3x as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash. Florida has a graduated driver licensing system to help 15-year-olds gradually learn the rules of the road under less risky conditions.

Life or death

Distractions could be the difference between life and death.

Dawn Mauer’s 23-year-old daughter, Deanna, was sitting in traffic when she was hit from behind by a driver who was texting while driving. The impact from the crash was so severe, it broke Deanna’s neck and severed two arteries. She didn’t survive.

“The hurt doesn’t go away and the emptiness,” Dawn Mauer said. “People say I can’t believe that I could cry every day for years and years. I still do. It’s a loss that is unbelievable.”

Jenkins said even he has been the victim of a distracted driving crash.

“Just earlier this year my wife and I were in the car. We were just stuck in traffic, we were at a standstill, and then smashed from behind by a driver who was going 55 mph,” Jenkins said. “He said he was looking at his GPS. He said he had looked down for a couple of seconds and really that’s all it can take -- just a couple of seconds.”

Avoid distractions

AAA has some suggestions to help drivers avoid distractions:

  • Prepare for your drive before you get on the road -- that includes setting your GPS, mirrors or music before pulling out.
  • Make sure you disable or put away your electronics.
  • Stay focused -- don’t let anything divert your attention.
  • You can assign a passenger to be the designated texter to make sure your focus stays on the road at all times.
  • Take the pledge to drive distraction free or learn more about distracted driving at aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted.

Florida is one of five states that prohibits hand-held cell phone use for all drivers in school and work zones.

It is also illegal to text while driving in Florida.

AAA said it supports strengthening the distracted driving law by banning all cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18.

“Distraction is the number one cause of teen driver crashes, and cellphone-use is a primary reason for it,” Jenkins said. “Tougher laws on mobile phones could help eliminate a major distraction for teens, who are still developing their skills as a new driver.”

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