April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Recent studies by AAA further emphasize the need for drivers to focus on the road

WILMINGTON – April 1 marks the start of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Statistics from two recent studies compiled by AAA show that drivers, especially young drivers, are at risk for this deadly and illegal behavior. The National Occupant Protection Use Survey reports that at any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 9 people are killed every day in the U.S. as a result of crashes involving a distracted driver.

It’s the Law in Delaware

When it comes to distracted driving laws, Delaware is ahead of many other states. Delaware’s hands-free cell phone law took effect in 2011, banning all drivers from using handheld cell phones or texting while driving. Drivers caught using a hand-held device will be fined roughly $106 ($50 base fine with fees) for their first offense, with subsequent penalties reaching up to $350 with fees. Delaware became the 30th State in the nation to have a texting ban, and the 8th to also ban the use of hand held cell phones. No state completely bans the use of cell phones altogether.

The Delaware Office of Highway Safety reveals that from the time the law went into effect on January 2, 2011 through March 27, 2015 there were over 56,000 cell phone citations issued. The agency also found that in 2014, there were 168 cell phone related crashes that caused 78 injuries and 2 fatalities in Delaware.
Studies Show

In February 2015, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released its latest Traffic Safety Culture Index. In addition to finding that many drivers admit to running red lights, speeding, and driving while drowsy, the report finds that drivers are distracted.

• More than a quarter (27 percent) of drivers report typing or sending a text or email, yet 79 percent of drivers say it is a very serious threat to safety and 84 percent say it is completely unacceptable.

• 1 in 3 drivers reported talking on their cell phone often.

• 1 in 3 drivers admit to reading a text message or email.
Last week, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released the most comprehensive research ever conducted into crash videos of teen drivers finding significant evidence that distracted driving is likely much more serious a problem than previously known. The video analysis finds that distraction was a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes, which is four times as many as official estimates based on police reports.

The most common forms of distraction leading up to a crash by a teen driver included:

• Interacting with one or more passengers: 15 percent of crashes;

• Cell phone use: 12 percent of crashes;

• Looking at something in the vehicle: 10 percent of crashes;

• Looking at something outside the vehicle: 9 percent of crashes;

• Singing/moving to music: 8 percent of crashes;

• Grooming: 6 percent of crashes;

• Reaching for an object: 6 percent of crashes.

Many drivers feel that hands-free technology is safe to use. They may be surprised to learn that new vehicle features may actually increase mental distraction, as shown in an October 2014 report released by the AAA Foundation for Safety. AAA has urged manufacturers to make hands-free technology more accurate and usable so that they are less cognitively distracting.

AAA urges consumers to embrace new technology, but play it safe:

• Limit use of voice-activated technology to core driving-related activities such as climate control, windshield wipers and cruise control, and to ensure these applications do not lead to increased safety risk due to mental distraction while the car is moving.

• Disable certain functionalities of voice-to-text technologies such as using social media or interacting with e-mail and text messages so that they are inoperable while the vehicle is in motion.

The Sussex County Post delivers news from Georgetown and southern Delaware. Follow @SussexPost on Twitter.

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