April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and AAA Texas is reminding drivers to focus on the road rather than on their smartphones. Many dangerous driving behaviors increased during the pandemic, such as speeding, red light running, not wearing seatbelts, impaired driving and distracted driving, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Researchers found that higher-risk drivers accounted for a greater share of drivers during the pandemic than before it, and while only a small percentage of drivers increased their driving due to the pandemic, those who did were younger and disproportionately male – a statistically riskier driver group than the average population.
“Deaths continue to increase on Texas roadways due to distracted driving,” said AAA Texas Spokesperson Daniel Armbruster. “Research shows that looking down at your phone for two seconds, while behind the wheel, doubles your risk for a crash. AAA Texas reminds all drivers to never drive intoxicated or intexticated as both have deadly consequences."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,138 people died in distracted-related crashes in the U.S. in 2020, accounting for 8.1% of all roadway fatalities. That’s an average of 9 people killed each day in crashes that are totally preventable. Additionally, another 400,000 people are injured each year in distracted-related crashes. According to the latest statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2021 431 people died statewide in crashes involving distracted driving. That was a 17% increase from 2020 and 14% increase from 2019. TxDOT reports there were 2,935 serious injuries due to distracted driving in 2021, which was a 33% jump from the prior year and 17% increase from 2019.
Distracted driving is especially dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. Non-drivers account for nearly one in five distracted driving deaths. Nationally in 2020, there were 480 pedestrians, 83 bicyclists and 14 other non-occupants killed in crashes that involved a driver who was reported to be distracted. It is unknown how many of these other pedestrians, cyclists and other non-occupants were also distracted at the time.
According to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey in 2021, more than half of drivers (51%) admitted they text and/or email on their phone while alone in the vehicle. Changing the social norm about distracted driving is critical for reducing and ultimately eliminating crashes, deaths and injuries as a result of distracted driving. That’s the goal of the AAA Texas campaign, “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” The campaign aims to increase the social stigma of using a smartphone behind the wheel like the stigma that exists with impaired driving.
AAA Texas encourages all drivers to eliminate distracted driving by following these tips:
- Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
- Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
- Pull over. If you have to call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
- Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
- Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
- Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
- Everyone should prevent being intexticated. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.
For more information about AAA’s “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 new distracted driving documentary called “Sidetracked.”
About AAA: AAA provides more than 62.9 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of independently owned motor clubs and nearly 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, AAA has been a leader and advocate for the motorist and safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. AAA Texas branch offices throughout the state can be found by visiting www.AAA.com. Follow AAA Texas on Twitter: @AAATexas and Facebook: www.facebook.com/AAATexas.