AAA traffic safety study says put the phone down, drive

A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey indicates cell phone-using drivers are more likely to engage in other dangerous behaviors such as speeding, driving drowsing, driving without a seatbelt and sending texts or emails than drivers not using their phones.

Additionally, more than two-thirds, or 69 percent, of licensed drivers reported talking on a cell phone while driving within the last month despite the fact that nearly nine in 10 respondents, or 89 percent, believe other drivers using cell phones are a threat to their personal safety.

“Driver use of cell phones impairs reaction times and roughly quadruples crash risk,” according to JJ Miller, AAA Safety Advisor. “What concerns AAA is this pattern of risky behavior that even goes beyond cell phone use. These same cell phone-using drivers clearly understand the risk of distraction, yet are still likely to engage in a wide range of dangerous driving activities.”

Motorists who fairly often or regularly used their cell phones over the last month also reported that they engaged in additional risky behaviors.

The research shows:

65 percent also reported speeding;

44 percent also reported driving while drowsy;

53 percent also reported sending a text or email; and

29 percent also drove without a seatbelt.

Conversely, drivers that reported never using a cell phone were much less likely to report additional risky behaviors:

31 percent reported speeding;

14 percent reported driving drowsy;

3 percent reported sending a text or email; and

16 percent drove without a seatbelt.

Despite the near-universal disapproval of texting and emailing while driving – 95 percent – more than one in four licensed drivers, or 27 percent, reported sending a text or email at least once in the past 30 days, and more than one-third, or 35 percent, said they read a text or email while driving. Young drivers aged 16 to 24 were even more likely with more than half, or 61 percent, reporting having read a text or email while driving in the past month, while more than one in four, or 26 percent, reported checking or updating social media while driving.

AAA safety advisors offer the following advice to drivers tempted to talk or text on their phone:

Turn off the phone;

Put the phone out of reach;

Pull off to a safe location to call or text;

Turn off the notification chime;

Parents should not call or text teens at times when they will be driving;

Parents should review the phone bill to see if they are talking or texting at times when they are likely to be driving;

If a driver looks away from the road for four seconds, the average texting time, at 55 miles per hour, they travel the length of an entire football field, totally blind; and

Download an app that will auto-reply to messages when driving.

AAA has launched a legislative campaign to advocate for a text messaging ban in all 50 states. To date, 39 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the traffic safety measure and AAA expects all 11 remaining states to consider this legislation this year.