AAA Texas joined San Antonio Police and Johnson High School’s Smart Driving Club to push for drivers to get off their smartphones when behind the wheel. The group also encouraged drivers to learn how to use Driving Focus features on smartphones, which are designed to prevent incoming calls and texts while a vehicle is in motion. This effort comes at the start of April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Officer Jonathan Esquival Recovery Pictures and logos and Soundbite
Distracted driving crash videos
According to the latest statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving killed 3,142 people in 2020. That’s an average of nine lives lost each day, although experts believe the numbers are much higher due to the causes of these types of crashes being greatly underreported.
In Texas last year, 483 people lost their lives reportedly to distracted driving, according to preliminary Texas Department of Transportation statistics. That is a 12 percent increase from the prior year when it comes to deaths from distracted driving. Suspected serious injuries in 2022 were slightly fewer when compared to 2021 with more than 2,800 reported.
“Using a smartphone behind the wheel is a threat to everyone who uses our roadways,” said AAA Texas Spokesperson Joshua Zuber. “Even though it is against the law to text and drive in Texas, it is apparent many drivers are still practicing this unsafe behavior.”
Driving 55 miles per hour and taking your eyes off the road for five seconds is like traveling the length of a football field blindfolded. Law enforcement officers watch out for distracted drivers on our roadways, but they can’t be everywhere to catch every violation.
AAA Texas continues a campaign it began in 2018 to increase the social stigma of using a smartphone while driving, like the stigma that exists with alcohol-impaired driving. As part of the campaign called, “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” market researchers conducted a survey of drivers nationwide about their knowledge of and use of Driving Focus features, which are smartphone apps that use sensors and proximity to known network connections to detect driving. The apps generally work when the vehicles are in motion and can silence the phone, redirect incoming calls to voicemails or respond to text message with a preprogrammed message. However, users must opt in to activate the apps.
The AAA survey found even though 81% of drivers across the U.S. are aware of Driving Focus features on their phones, 54% have never used the features. The survey also found that of those who are aware of the Driving Focus features, the biggest users are people 18 to 29-years- old who say they usually or sometimes use it while driving (59%).
Among all drivers who DO NOT enable the Driving Focus features while driving, the primary reasons they gave for not using them are:
•Able to ignore my smartphone while driving
•Use Bluetoooth if I need to answer a call
•Don’t think to turn it on
•Need to be reachable in case of an emergency (kids, family, work, etc.)
However, the latest Driving Focus (iPhones) and Drive Focus (Android) features on smartphones do address many drivers’ concerns. These newer features will:
• Automatically enable when connected to vehicle’s Bluetooth
• Allow repeat calls to be received (in emergencies)
• Set contact exemption rules allowing calls/texts from select contacts in your phonebook
• Allow all messages/calls but only allow interaction via Bluetooth
To stay focused behind the wheel and prevent driving “intexticated,” AAA Texas recommends:
- Use the Driving Focus features on your smartphone.
- Pull over if you have to call or text someone.
- Speak up if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
- Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
- Know where you’re going. If using GPS, program the destination before driving.
- Ask passengers for help. If with someone, ask for help to navigate, make a call or text.
- Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
For more information about the AAA Texas’ “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” campaign visit aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted to read real stories of lives impacted by distracted driving, watch PSAs, and view a distracted driving documentary called “Sidetracked.”