A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

AAA: Important reminders for Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the entire year

AAA believes no life is worth losing to driver distraction. In Kentucky, there were 6,455 collisions attributed to distracted driving in 2019, according to data from the Kentucky State Police.

Those collisions resulted in 14 fatalities and 1,719 injuries. AAA is urging all drivers to pay attention and focus on the road during this National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and all year long.

“Focused drivers save lives,” said Lori Weaver Hawkins, public and government affairs manager, AAA Blue Grass. “There is no text message worth reading or sending, when injuring or killing someone is the potential cost.”

Nationwide, nearly 3,000 people are killed in crashes involving a distracted driver every year. In 2018, collisions due to distracted driving contributed to the 36,560 total lives lost to crashes on U.S. roadways.

“Too often, people think only about texting when they think about distracted driving,” said Weaver Hawkins. “But distractions include more than texting. Anything that diverts attention from driving―such as eating and drinking, adjusting the navigation, choosing your next podcast, and talking to other passengers, as well as talking or texting on the phone—can result in a fatal injury. Looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash.”

Despite what some drivers may think, hands-free is not risk-free. Even with your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, you are not safe unless your mind focuses on driving.

AAA’s ongoing “Don’t Drive Intoxicated, Don’t Drive Intexticated” campaign aims to make distracted driving socially unacceptable, much like drinking and driving. It was launched in Kentucky and several other states last year as AAA continues its longstanding efforts to improve road, vehicle and driver safety.

“We recognize that it will take time and true commitment from all road users to change attitudes and behaviors when it comes to distracted driving,” Weaver Hawkins added.

Currently, Kentucky distracted driving law states:

• Reading, writing, or sending text messages while in motion is prohibited.

• Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from all cell phone use, whether hands-free or handheld.

Here are AAA’s Top Tips to Avoid Distractions While Driving:

• Prepare for your drive. Set vehicle systems like GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time. And please, finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.

• Don’t Drive Intoxicated, Don’t Drive Intexticated. The impact of alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving can be the same. Put aside electronic distractions and never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving. Stow your smartphone away, turn it to airplane mode, or activate call/text blocking features.

• Stay focused. Do not let anything divert your attention. Be sure to actively scan the road, use your mirrors, and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists. If you have passengers, enlist their help as a “designated texter.” Ask them to answer your calls, respond to texts and program the navigation.

Take the pledge not to drive distracted by visiting AAA.com/dontdrivedistracted.

From AAA Blue Grass

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